Study: High Hospital Occupancy Not Linked to Higher Patient Infection Risk

By on 7:27 AM

The surprising results of a new study indicate that there is no correlation between increased risk of hospital-acquired infection and increased hospital occupancy.

Researchers analyzed more than 558,000 patient discharges from 327 acute care hospitals in California between 2008–2012. They specifically examined data on patients who had contracted a Clostridium difficile infection (CDI), of which there were a little over 2,000. 

The researchers found that patients were most likely to acquire CDI when inpatient occupancy was between 25% and 75% full. In fact, when patients were admitted to a unit with between 25% and 75% capacity, they had an over three-fold increase in odds of acquiring CDI when compared to patients in units at below 25% or above 75% capacity.

As the researchers note, "These findings suggest that an exploration of the processes associated with hospitals accommodating higher occupancy might elucidate measures to reduce CDI. How do staffing, implementation of policies and routine procedures vary when hospitals are busy or quiet? What aspects of care delivery that function well during high and low occupancy periods breakdown during intermediate occupancy? Hospital policies, practices and procedures during different phases of occupancy might inform best practices."

They continue, "These data suggest that hospital occupancy level should be a routinely collected data element by infection control officers and that this should be linked with protocols triggered or modified with high or low occupancy that might affect hospital-acquired conditions."

The study was conducted by the University of Michigan and RAND Corp. and published in the Journal of Hospital Medicine.

Phenelle Segal, RN, CIC, FAPIC

Phenelle Segal, RN, CIC, FAPIC, is the founder and president of Infection Control Consulting Services LLC (ICCS). Phenelle has more than 30 years' experience providing customized comprehensive infection control and prevention services to healthcare facilities nationwide. Her services focus on assisting hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers, dental office and oral surgery practices, doctor's offices, nursing homes and other organizations with implementing and maintaining an infection control program that: complies with The Joint Commission, AAAHC, Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) and other regulatory agencies; respond to situations of noncompliance; and improve the processes for reducing risk.