Safety of patients isolated for infection control

JAMA. 2003 Oct 8;290(14):1899-905. doi: 10.1001/jama.290.14.1899.


Context: Hospital infection control policies that use patient isolation prevent nosocomial transmission of infectious diseases, but may inadvertently lead to patient neglect and errors.

Objective: To examine the quality of medical care received by patients isolated for infection control.

Design, setting, and patients: We identified consecutive adults who were isolated for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus colonization or infection at 2 large North American teaching hospitals: a general cohort (patients admitted with all diagnoses between January 1, 1999, and January 1, 2000; n = 78); and a disease-specific cohort (patients admitted with a diagnosis of congestive heart failure between January 1, 1999, and July 1, 2002; n = 72). Two matched controls were selected for each isolated patient (n = 156 general cohort controls and n = 144 disease-specific cohort controls).

Main outcome measures: Quality-of-care measures encompassing processes, outcomes, and satisfaction. Adjustments for study cohort and patient demographic, hospital, and clinical characteristics were conducted using multivariable regression.

Results: Isolated and control patients generally had similar baseline characteristics; however, isolated patients were twice as likely as control patients to experience adverse events during their hospitalization (31 vs 15 adverse events per 1000 days; P<.001). This difference in adverse events reflected preventable events (20 vs 3 adverse events per 1000 days; P<.001) as opposed to nonpreventable events (11 vs 12 adverse events per 1000 days; P =.98). Isolated patients were also more likely to formally complain to the hospital about their care than control patients (8% vs 1%; P<.001), to have their vital signs not recorded as ordered (51% vs 31%; P<.001), and more likely to have days with no physician progress note (26% vs 13%; P<.001). No differences in hospital mortality were observed for the 2 groups (17% vs 10%; P =.16).

Conclusion: Compared with controls, patients isolated for infection control precautions experience more preventable adverse events, express greater dissatisfaction with their treatment, and have less documented care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Canada
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross Infection / epidemiology
  • Cross Infection / prevention & control*
  • Hospitals, Teaching / standards*
  • Humans
  • Medical Errors / statistics & numerical data*
  • Methicillin Resistance
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care*
  • Patient Isolation / standards*
  • Patient Satisfaction / statistics & numerical data
  • Regression Analysis
  • Safety Management
  • Staphylococcal Infections / prevention & control
  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • United States