Infectious Disease

The Value of an Infectious Diseases Specialist
February 28, 2016 – 05:19 pm

Steven Schmitt, MD, FIDSAGuest Author –
Chair of the Infectious Diseases Society America’s Clinical Affairs Committee and infectious diseases physician at Cleveland Clinic

We’re all well aware that infection is a major problem among hospitalized patients, sometimes arriving with infection as a reason for admission and sometimes developing infection in the hospital. In either case, infection is among the top causes of death in the hospital and hospital-acquired infections affect one in 20 patients. Many of these infections are resistant to antibiotics, making them extremely difficult to treat. So what is the answer? Get patients the type of care they deserve – in this case, treatment provided by physicians who are experts in infectious diseases. A recent study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases– based on Medicare data from nearly 130, 000 hospitalized patient cases – provides strong evidence that infectious diseases expertise is invaluable.

To quantify the value of ID physicians, we studied the records of patients who had at least one of 11 common types of infections, including which the CDC recently named as one of the top three urgent threats in its landmark antibiotic resistance report. Other infections included: bacteremia, central line associated bloodstream infections (CLABSI), bacterial endocarditis, HIV/opportunistic infections, meningitis, osteomyelitis, prosthetic joint infections, septic arthritis, septic shock and vascular device infections. Matching patient characteristics, we compared the outcomes of those who had seen an ID physician and those who had not.

The results were striking. The study showed hospitalized patients who see an infectious diseases (ID) specialist are not only less likely to die in the hospital and after discharge, but stay for shorter periods and are less likely to be readmitted to the hospital. Those benefits are even more pronounced when ID specialists consult with patients within two days of admission to the hospital. Consulting early with an ID specialist saves money, too: Medicare payments were less with early ID involvement.

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Popular Q&A
What is infectious disease?

An infectious disease is a disease caused by bacterial, viral, fungal, or protozoan infection. Though some infectious diseases are not contagious, others may be transmitted from animal to person or from person to person.

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