Where Do the Numbers Come From

How Hospitals Submit Infection Data

S.C. hospitals submit details about infections, surgical procedures, central line devices, and patient risk factors - all used to calculate infection rates- to the National Health Care Safety Network (NHSN) , a secure, CDC managed, data reporting system. Hospitals give DHEC the right to collect the data from the NHSN.

Comparing Apples to Apples: Adjusting for Risk

Some patients, like those with weak immune systems, run a higher risk of infection than others. Not surprisingly, hospitals that routinely care for these high-risk patients sometimes report more hospital-acquired infections than hospitals that care primarily for lower-risk patients.

To make it possible for you to compare hospitals fairly, HIDA requires that risk factors be taken into account. When hospitals submit surgical site infection statistics, for instance, they also submit certain facts about the pre-existing health of patients (not identified in the reports). Each patient is assigned to a risk category based on that pre-existing health status, wound class, and length of surgery. Hospital-acquired infection rates for each risk category are tallied separately.

How DHEC Verifies Accuracy

DHEC public health professionals visit hospitals to review their HAI records for accuracy and thoroughness. We also make sure hospitals are following standardized procedures in how they gather and report their infection numbers.

In addition, DHEC and the HIDA Advisory Committee - comprised of consumer advocates, private sector medical professionals and others - continually evaluate HIDA procedures, searching for ways to improve the reporting system.

Numbers Don't Tell the Whole Story

If you are trying to decide which hospital to use for an upcoming procedure, keep in mind that infection rates are one of several important considerations. Also consider:

  • Your physician's advice on hospitals
  • The experience level of each facility and its surgeons
  • Any health factors unique to you.

Remember that some hospitals may face unusual circumstances that may have affected their HIDA reports or infection prevention efforts.
You may be able to find more information about a hospital's infection rates and infection control procedures on its Web site.