Although many policymakers recommend universal screening for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection, individual hospitals may lack the funding to execute it.
In a pair of abstracts presented today at IDWeek in Philadelphia, researchers from the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute (LA BioMed) considered both the benefits and costs of MRSA screening and isolating high-risk patients.
"Screening for MRSA is becoming an accepted weapon against the spread of these antibiotic-resistant infections, but little thought has been given to how a hospital would actually implement such a program," said James A. McKinnell, MD, an LA BioMed lead researcher who presented the findings.
Some states have enacted laws that require medical facilities to screen for MRSA once a patient has been admitted. While such screening can help prevent so-called “superbugs” from spreading, the researchers estimated the cost at $103,000 per 10,000 hospital admissions.
Additionally, the researchers found that the traditional method of MRSA testing in the nose and then isolating high-risk patients prevented fewer than 1 infection per 1000 admissions to the hospital and created a financial loss of $36,899 for the hospitals. More extensive MRSA screening prevented slightly more infections, but at an even greater financial loss of $51,478.
“Although more extensive MRSA testing and isolation could prevent hospital-acquired MRSA infections, we found the cost of such a program far exceeds any savings to the hospital,” Dr. McKinnell continued. “Our results are surprising, because we know that preventing MRSA infections is better for the health care system as a whole, but the rewards of this effort do not seem to come back to the hospital in a meaningful way. In today's constrained health care environment, hospitals must either be given better financial incentives or better and more cost-effective infection prevention strategies to provide the greatest benefit to the people they serve.”