Nashville-Based Hospital Chain Studies Sponge Baths To Combat MRSA | Nashville Public Radio

Nashville-Based Hospital Chain Studies Sponge Baths To Combat MRSA

Mar 11, 2019

HCA is expanding an effort to control infections acquired in its hospitals with a souped-up sponge bath.

This follows a study conducted in 53 HCA facilities and published in the journal The Lancet.

The research involved more than 300,000 patients over nearly two years. While the study didn't find any improvement in giving an antiseptic bath to the average patient, those with spinal drains or central lines — used in dialysis and chemotherapy — benefited substantially.

"The nice thing about this approach is that it is very simple," says HCA chief medical officer Jonathan Perlin, one of the study's authors. "Our mothers were right. It's all about hygiene in terms of keeping ourselves safe from infections."

Compared to the control group who received the normal treatment of soap and water, infection rates were cut by 31 percent for those who washed with a special pre-packaged disinfectant sponge and swabbed an antibiotic ointment in their noses. (An instructional video on how to give the bath makes it clear that it's just as much about technique as it is how to convince patients they need to be wiped down.)

"This is really important because those infections can be life-threatening," Perlin says. "So the ability to, beyond all-known best practices, to reduce infections by a third, it really speaks to a new way to keep patients safe in hospitals."

Perlin says the inexpensive precaution to combat drug resistant pathogens and bloodstream infections will become standard protocol for central line patients in HCA facilities. The latest study is a continuation of an ongoing project called the ABATE (Active Bathing to Eliminate Infection) Project, which launched in 2014.

Hospital-acquired infections are a major safety concern across the industry, but it's also a business issue. Many hospitals, including HCA's flagship Centennial Medical Center, were penalized by Medicare this year for an elevated rate of patient infections.