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Private ICU Rooms Reduce Hospital Infections

A study finds that private ICU rooms can benefit the health care system as a whole by decreasing length of stay associated with hospital-acquired infections.

Researchers from the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) and McGill University in Montreal, Canada, have demonstrated that private rooms in the intensive care unit (ICU) play a key role in reducing hospital infections like Clostridium difficile and can help decrease length of stay, according to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Infection control in hospitals is a worldwide health concern that can have a serious impact on patient morbidity, mortality, and the cost of treatment — particularly in the ICU, where patients are highly susceptible to infection. Single-patient rooms have long been considered to provide patients with better protection from hospital infections. However, previous studies investigating this issue have been inconclusive.

“We had a valuable opportunity to examine the rates of acquisition of infection in patients during a change from multi-bed to single rooms in the ICU at the MUHC,” said Dana Teltsch, lead author of the study, in a press release.

The results show that the infection acquisition rate after room privatization fell about 50% for three bacteria of most concern—Staphylococcus aureus, C-difficile and Enterococcus. “We also observed a 10 percent reduction in the length of stay in the ICU after changing to private rooms. These findings provide a basis of comparison of the savings versus the costs to the healthcare system on top of the health benefits to patients,” said Teltsch. It is estimated each case of C. difficile can cost of up to $7000 per episode.

This study is the first evaluation of the full range of the benefits of private rooms in an ICU environment and highlights the important role that physical infrastructure plays in the prevention of transmission of healthcare associated pathogens,” said Vivian Loo, MD, one the study’s co-authors.

“Of course, other factors are also important in preventing transmission, like hand hygiene, isolation precautions, antibiotic stewardship and housekeeping practices, but this study clearly demonstrates the crucial need for private rooms, particularly for this patient population,” she added.

“Private rooms can help our patients avoid infections and also aid the healthcare system as a whole in decreasing length of stay associated with hospital-acquired infections,” said David Buckeridge, MD, senior author of the study. “We did not measure all of the costs and benefits of private rooms in our study, but they are an investment that, once built, should continue to provide substantial benefit.

“Apart from limiting the spread of infections, single-patient rooms ensure privacy and confidentiality, give patients a sense of control and provide enough space for medical equipment to be wheeled in beside beds, meaning that patients can stay in their rooms for routine exams, treatments or tests,” he added.

To read the Archives of Internal Medicine study, click here.