Akron Children's earns national award for NICU infection reduction

The bloodstream infection rate for Akron Children’s neonatal intensive care unit is more than 15 percent below the national NICU average for the most at-risk babies treated.

These low rates earned Akron Children's NICU a Sustained Improvement Award for "achievements in eliminating central line-associated bloodstream infections."

The award was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, Office of Healthcare Quality and the Critical Care Societies Collaborative.

In 2007, Akron Children's NICU staff identified bloodstream infection reduction as a focus area for improvement. At that time, the bloodstream infection rate for all infants was 10 percent.

Reducing NICU infections

For infants 22-29 weeks gestation at birth, the most at-risk group, the rate was 31 percent. By 2009, the last year for which data is complete, Children’s NICU infection rate for all infants was down to 2.6 percent compared to a 5.2 percent national average, and for the most at-risk babies, 7.8 percent compared to 23.8 percent national average. 

“We have visitors from other hospitals coming to visit and see how we were able to accomplish this,” said Judy Ohlinger, improvement and research coordinator of the NICU. “What we learned about the importance of organizational culture and its role in improvement capabilities is still being practiced and refined in our unit today as demonstrated in the project.” 

Each neonatal bloodstream infection costs an estimated $35,000 and adds about two weeks to a baby’s hospital stay. 

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