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Media Contacts:
Jerica Pitts, for IDSA
[email protected]
Study Finds Patients Benefit from Improved Outcomes and Shorter Hospital Stays when
ID Physician is Involved in Treatment for Severe Infections
– In a first-of-its-kind
study to evaluate the impact of a medical specialty on patient
A study of nearly 130,000
hospitalized Medicare
patients treated for one of
11 common infections
compared outcomes of
those treated by an ID
specialist to those who
were not.
Hospitalized patients with
severe infections are 12
percent less likely to die
within 30 days if they
receive care from an ID
The benefits are more
pronounced when
patients are seen by an
ID specialist within two
days of admission,
minimizing hospital
readmissions and
lowering medical costs by
6 percent
outcomes, researchers found that hospitalized patients with
severe infections such as meningitis and Clostridium difficile (C.
diff.) are significantly less likely to die if they receive care from
an infectious diseases specialist. The study, which analyzed
nearly 130,000 Medicare patient records, is now available online
and will be published in the December 15 issue of Clinical
Infectious Diseases.
Researchers found that patients treated by ID specialists are 9
percent less likely to die in the hospital and 12 percent less
likely to die after discharge. When an ID physician is consulted,
patients experience an average 3.7 percent fewer days in an
intensive care unit. The study also found consultation with an ID
specialist minimizes the likelihood patients will be readmitted to
the hospital within 30 days.
“Infectious diseases are the second leading cause of death worldwide. In an age where
healthcare-acquired infections are linked to payment penalties and bundled payments leave
little room for error, the impact of ID physicians is more critical than ever to providing high
quality care,” said
“As the ‘detectives’ of the
medical world, ID specialists have additional years of training and possess the expertise to
quickly identify and treat potentially life-threatening infections.”
In the study, researchers looked at a sample of Medicare patients who were hospitalized
between Jan. 1, 2008 and Dec. 31, 2009 and had at least one of 11 serious but commonly
treated infections: bacteremia, C diff, central line associated bloodstream infections (CLABSI),
bacterial endocarditis, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/opportunistic infections, meningitis,
osteomyelitis, prosthetic joint infections, septic arthritis, septic shock, and vascular device
infections. Matching patient characteristics, researchers compared the outcomes of 61,680
hospitalized patients who saw an ID specialist to 65,192 hospitalized patients who did not see
an ID specialist.
The benefits of ID consultation are more pronounced when patients are seen earlier,
researchers note. Patients seen by an ID physician within two days of being admitted to the
hospital are 6 percent less likely to be readmitted to the hospital within 30 days of discharge
compared to patients seen by an ID physician after the first two days. These patients also have
an average 3.8 percent fewer days in the hospital, and total Medicare costs for these patients
are nearly 6.2 percent lower in the 30 days after discharge from the hospital.
“These findings are in line with healthcare reform efforts being implemented through the
Affordable Care Act, showing that including ID specialists in up-front care of patients provides
better outcomes at lower costs,” said Dr.
. “Further, the association of ID
specialist involvement with reduced readmission rates suggests an important role for the
infectious diseases specialist in transitions of care from the hospital to the community.”
About Infectious Diseases Specialists
Infectious diseases specialists are physicians who completed residency training in a specialty
such as internal medicine or pediatrics and have undergone at least two to three years of
additional, specialized training in infectious diseases. ID specialists play a critical role in the
treatment and prevention of infections by managing: appropriate antibiotic choice, duration of
therapy, route of delivery, and adverse drug reactions. An estimated 7,500 board certified ID
specialists are practicing in the United States today, which has grown from fewer than 1,000
physicians in the early 1980s.
ID specialists are commonly called upon in major public health crises, including outbreaks of
emerging infectious diseases, to educate the public, define treatment, and help halt the spread
of rapidly communicable illnesses.
Diseases that used to have high morbidity and mortality rates, such as polio, smallpox, measles,
influenza, mumps, and rubella, have been significantly curtailed or eradicated thanks to
traditional ID strategies of surveillance and immunization. The demand for ID specialists is
increasing as the need for specialized care to treat, prevent and study HIV, viral hepatitis,
influenza, antibiotic resistant infections, and the list of ever-evolving microbes that cause human
diseases continues to grow.
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report issued recently underscored the
threat posed by antibiotic resistant infections, which are often managed by ID specialists. The
report revealed that C. diff. alone accounts for more than 250,000 infections and at least 14,000
deaths per year. Given ID specialists’ crucial role in the development and implementation of
antimicrobial stewardship and infection programs, noted by CDC as essential to effectively
combating this crisis, it’s clear they are an important part of combating the spread of deadly
antibiotic resistant infections.
Note: For a copy of the article, “Infectious Diseases Specialty Intervention is Associated with
Decreased Mortality and Lower Healthcare Costs,” available online at to be published in the December 15 print issue of Clinical Infectious
Diseases, please contact Jerica Pitts at (312) 558-1770 or [email protected] The article is
embargoed until 12:01 a.m. EST on Sept. 26, 2013. Research for this study was funded by
the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA).
About IDSA
The Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) is an organization of physicians, scientists,
and other health care professionals dedicated to promoting health through excellence in
infectious diseases research, education, prevention, and patient care. The Society, which has
more than 10,000 members, was founded in 1963 and is based in Arlington, VA. For more
information, see