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A report from researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, which was published in the Journal for Healthcare Quality, revealed that hospitals have almost complete discretion in reporting infections that occur as a result of surgeries.

The report said that a minority of states-eight states-have laws that require documenting and public disclosing post-operative infections. Even in these states, surgical infections are only reported to the public for 10 surgical procedures-much fewer than the 250 possible types of surgeries.

The authors of the study said that the reasons why hospitals chose to monitor and report the infection data on some surgical procedures over others is unclear. The authors noted that without uniformity and consistency in the what hospitals are required to report, it makes comparing infection rates between hospitals difficult for patients and regulators, creating a false impression on the quality of care of a given hospital.

The study’s lead author, John Makary, said that the lack of uniformity in reporting is because of an absence of federally mandated standards. However, Makary noted that hospitals routinely lobby Congress to prevent such standards from being established.

Having a uniform system of infection reporting among hospitals, researchers noted, would empower patients to make better decisions about where they want to be treated, and would pressure hospitals to improve the quality of care to attract more patients. The current system of inconsistent reporting, the study found, is costing the healthcare system $10 billion per year and is responsible for 8,000 patient deaths per year.

Source: Forbes, “Lack of National Reporting Mandate for Hospital Infections Hurts Consumers,” Gergana Koleva, April 5, 2012