Should hospitalized patients be routinely screened for MRSA?

MRSA is a drug-resistant bacteria that is plaguing hospitals, and is on the rise.

Hospitals in Seattle, and I presume in many other cities, don’t routinely screen for MRSA (via the WSJ Health Blog), and a report revealed that the number of patients infected rose to 4,723 cases from 141 over the past decade.

Should patients be routinely screened? At $20 a test, this will significantly balloon health costs at a time when government and insurers are trying to control spending. Another issue is that most hospitals do not have enough private rooms to house every MRSA-carrier.

Malpractice is cited as another reason, as “results would show who already had the germ upon admission “” and who picked it up while in the hospital. Patients could then blame the hospital for their infections.”

That last reason conflicts with Medicare’s proposed “never” event policy that doesn’t pay for hospital-acquired MRSA infections. I would think that more hospitals would want to screen for MRSA, if only to show that some cases are community-acquired, and not be denied payment. So the malpractice excuse doesn’t make sense to me.

The right balance clearly needs to be struck between controlling spiraling health spending, and reducing the incidence of this deadly infection. I’m not sure where that point is.

Creative Commons image license from feastoffools.

topics: mrsa, costs

✓ Join 150,000+ subscribers
✓ Get KevinMD's most popular stories