Thursday, 4:30 PM
Hospital executive opens up on blog
By Liz Kowalczyk, Globe Staff
Some things Boston hospital executives generally believe are best kept quiet. Gripes about competitors are one. The rates of hospital-acquired infections among patients, at least at this point, are another.
Then came Paul Levy’s blog.
In August, Levy, chief executive of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, began writing an Internet blog called Running a Hospital, about the inner workings of an academic medical center. Since then, he’s broken a few unwritten rules.
In a recent entry on his website and two previous ones, Levy, saying patients have a right to know, posted the percent of Beth Israel Deaconess patients who get infections each month from intravenous tubing inserted by staff, known as central line infections, which can cause serious harm and even death. (The hospital’s rate has fluctuated, but five or six patients got infections last August, while none did in January, he said.)
He challenged other hospitals to publicize their infection rates, a step that also is being pushed nationally by patient advocates including Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports. The Globe asked several other Boston teaching hospitals if they would release their monthly central line infection rates, which they’ve collected internally for years. They all said no -- at least for now -- but that they expect to in the near future.
Executives at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital and Tufts-New England Medical Center said that hospitals define infections and collect data on their prevalence differently, so that comparisons among hospitals are not always valid. For example, some hospitals employ more staff to track infections that show up after patients are discharged than others; infection rates at these hospitals would look higher, even though they’ve just done a better job at counting. Hospitals are waiting for the state Department of Public Health to develop standards for public reporting of infection rates, probably sometime later this year.