It is often that hospitals in a region share patients. Up until now, most studies on methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) have focused on one hospital or a small group of hospitals. A recent study published in Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology shows the impact of a MRSA outbreak on all hospitals in a large metropolitan county. It was found that an outbreak of MRSA at one hospital can impact other hospitals in the same area.
The study used extensive data collected from Orange County, California. Collectively, the hospitals in Orange County serve a population of 3.1 million people. An agent-based model was used to simulate patient movement throughout 29 Orange County hospitals. Valuable information was gained from the results of this study. It was found that increasing MRSA prevalence at a single hospital resulted in an up to 46% increase in relative MRSA prevalence at other hospitals. This is cause for great concern as a MRSA outbreak at one hospital can affect all hospitals in the area. Hospitals therefore should not consider themselves an “island”, but part of an interconnected system.
When an outbreak occurs, hospitals would want to consider limiting the transfer of patients. It may also be beneficial for hospitals to share infection control procedures with one another. MRSA outbreaks may take significant time to manifest. Hospital administration should maintain heightened infection surveillance and control for a longer period of time. Likewise, hospital staff should be aware of what is happening in the surrounding communities. Increases of MRSA in a community will affect the prevalence of MRSA in the hospitals of that area. Keeping an outbreak under control may take the efforts of multiple hospitals and organizations. The results of this study emphasize systems thinking in many aspects.
MRSA infections are clearly a growing problem and the cost to the healthcare system is staggering. The International Society for Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research (ISPOR) estimates that it costs the U.S. $3.2 billion to $4.2 billion annually. A MRSA outbreak at a single hospital can affect other hospitals in the region. It is essential for hospital staff and public health agencies to work together once an outbreak occurs. Patience and perseverance will be needed throughout the duration. Prevention, surveillance, and infection control strategies are the most important aspects that hospital staff can share between facilities to reduce infection rates.