Objectives: To determine the cost-effectiveness of a policy of screening high-risk patients for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) colonization on admission to hospital.
Setting: 980-bed university-affiliated tertiary-care hospital.
Patients: Between June 1996 and May 1997, patients directly transferred from another hospital or nursing home, or who had been hospitalized in the previous 3 months, were screened for MRSA within 72 hours of hospital admission.
Design: Nasal, perineal, and wound swabs were obtained for MRSA screening using standard laboratory methods. Laboratory and nursing costs associated with screening patients for MRSA on admission to hospital were calculated. The costs associated with the implementation of recommended infection control measures for patients with MRSA also were determined.
Results: 3,673 specimens were obtained from 1,743 patients. MRSA was found on admission in 23 patients (1.3%), representing 36% of the 64 patients with MRSA identified in the hospital during the year. MRSA-colonized patients were more likely to have been transferred from a nursing home (odds ratio [OR], 6.4; P =.04) or to have had a previous history of MRSA colonization (OR, 13.1; P =.05). Laboratory and nursing costs were found to be $8.34 per specimen, for a total cost of $30,632 during the year. The average cost of implementing recommended infection control measures for patients colonized with MRSA was approximately $5,235 per patient.
Conclusion: If early identification of MRSA in colonized patients prevents nosocomial transmission of the organism to as few as six new patients, the screening program would save money.