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Can Private Hospital Rooms Help Combat Hospital Infections?

If you’ve been hospitalized recently, you may have found yourself with a room of your own — reducing the need to pull the separating curtain as far as it can go to avoid getting too close to the stranger coughing in the bed next to you. Private rooms have long been reserved for those willing to shell out the extra money for convenience, but hospital roomies may soon be a thing of the past. In southeast Michigan shared hospital rooms are being phased out, and private rooms are becoming standard for all patients. The change comes with the hope of reducing hospital-acquired infections after patients are admitted, as well as improving comfort and privacy for patients and their families.

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While being ushered to a private room may cause sudden panic at the thought of the price, several health care companies have implemented policies against paying extra based on the room a patient is in.

Research has shown that private hospital rooms can in fact help decrease the risk of hospital-acquired infections, including superbugs — antibiotic resistant bacteria. In the U.S., resistant pathogens are conservatively estimated to cause at least 2 million infections annually and lead to 23,000 deaths each year.

In a recent study, researchers tested 399 hospital patients early on in their hospital stay and found that 14% tested positive for superbug antibiotic resistant bacteria on their hands or nostrils. Of objects in the room that were tested, including the nurse call button, nearly 1/3 came back positive. The researchers determined that health care workers’ hands were the primary method of microbe transmission.

According to 2014 statistics, by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 25 patients end up with hospital-acquired infection. In 2011 alone, 75,000 people died as a result. Medicare patients may be at even greater risk. According to the 2011 Health Grades Hospital Quality in America Study, 1 in 9 Medicare patients developed a hospital-acquired infection.

While hospitals are typically thought of as places where lives are saved, statistics show they’re actually one of the most dangerous places you could possibly frequent.

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