How Hospitals Harm Us, Ctd

Andrew Sullivan —  Sep 1 2011 @ 7:37am

by Chris Bodenner

A reader writes:

I am not sure what the quoted numbers represent (1 in 7 in the US, 1 in 122 in Europe).  Presumably the numerator is the number of people who died from a hospital acquired infection.  But what is the denominator?  Not all people (14% of Americans do not die from hospital acquired infections).  All hospital patients?  That seems way too high.  All patients who get an infection?  Maybe.  But this only says something about the lethality of infections in the US versus Europe, not the prevalence.  It could be the case that European hospitals are not sterile and so patients get lots of minor infections, and the same rate of deadly infections as US patients.  But, if US hospitals are effective in eliminating most minor infections, you would get the pattern in the data you quote. 

I am not saying this is what is going on (I have no idea), but I am not sure these data are telling us anything.  Country comparisons of health outcomes are useful, but hard to do.