First year of mandatory reporting of healthcare-associated infections, Pennsylvania: an infection control-chart abstractor collaboration

Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol. 2006 Sep;27(9):926-30. doi: 10.1086/507281. Epub 2006 Aug 14.


Background: In 2004, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania mandated hospitals to report healthcare-associated infections (HAIs). The increased workload led our Infection Control staff to collaborate with Atlas, a group of chart abstractors.

Objective: The objective of this study was to assess our first year of experience with mandatory reporting of HAIs--specifically, to assess Atlas' contribution to surveillance.

Design: Cases were selected if they had 1 or more of the International Classification of Diseases, 9th Revision, Clinical Modification (ICD-9-CM) codes designated by Pennsylvania as a possible HAI. After training by the Infection Control staff, Atlas applied National Nosocomial Infection Surveillance (NNIS) system case definitions for catheter-associated urinary tract infections (UTIs) and surgical site infections (SSIs), and they applied NNIS chest imaging criteria to eliminate cases that were not ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP). To assess Atlas' performance, Infection Control staff conducted a parallel review.

Results: For discharges from the hospital during the fourth quarter of 2004, a total of 410 UTIs, 59 SSIs, and 56 VAPs were identified on the basis of state-designated ICD-9-CM codes; review by Atlas/Infection Control determined that 15%, 15%, and 16% of cases met case definitions, respectively. Of cases reviewed by both Infection Control and Atlas, 87% of the assessments made by Atlas were correct for UTI, and 96% were correct for SSI. For VAP, Infection Control concluded that 39% of cases could be ruled out on the basis of chest imaging criteria; Atlas correctly dismissed these 12 cases but incorrectly dismissed an additional 6 (error, 19%). Surveillance was not timely: 1-2 months elapsed between the time of HAI onset and the earliest case review.

Conclusions: With ongoing training by Infection Control, Atlas successfully demonstrated a role in retrospective HAI surveillance. However, despite a major effort to comply with mandates, time lags and other design limitations rendered the data of low utility for Infection Control. States that are planning HAI-reporting programs should standardize an efficient surveillance methodology that yields data capable of guiding interventions to prevent HAI.

MeSH terms

  • Catheterization / adverse effects
  • Communicable Diseases / classification
  • Communicable Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Cross Infection / classification
  • Cross Infection / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • International Classification of Diseases
  • Mandatory Reporting*
  • Pennsylvania / epidemiology
  • Pneumonia / classification
  • Pneumonia / epidemiology
  • Population Surveillance / methods*
  • Surgical Wound Infection / classification
  • Surgical Wound Infection / epidemiology
  • Urinary Tract Infections / classification
  • Urinary Tract Infections / epidemiology