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Study finds private hospital rooms reduce dangerous infections

Patients sharing rooms in Texas had 64 percent more central line infections

Photo (c) sturti - Getty Images
Being admitted to a private hospital room, rather than sharing a room with another patient, leads to a better outcome, according to a large study published in PLOS ONE.

Researchers from the University of North Texas Health Science Center studied the discharge records of more than one million patients at 335 hospitals in Texas. Patients who were admitted to double-occupancy rooms suffered 64 percent more central line infections than patients who stayed in private rooms.

Of course, other factors may influence who gets these infections and who doesn't, but after adjusting for specific risk factors, patients who shared rooms still had a 21 percent greater chance of central line infections.

A central line infection is caused by germs from venous catheters. They're responsible for about 5,000 to 10,000 deaths annually.

Risk of death twice as high

The researchers also discovered the hospitals that consisted mostly of private rooms had a third fewer of these dangerous infections than hospitals made up of mostly double-occupancy patient rooms. In hospitals with mostly double-occupancy rooms, the risk of dying of these infections was about twice as high.

As you might expect, the cost of a private room is greater than a semi-private room, which are shared with another patient. In recent years, new hospitals have embraced the private room model, finding it financially more advantageous.

Costs also vary by the type of hospital, though the results are somewhat surprising. As of 2013, Kaiser State Health Facts determined that the average daily rate in non-profit hospitals was $2,289; however, it was only $1,791 at for-profit hospitals.

Demographic factors

While the choice of hospital might influence whether a patient is admitted to a private room or not, the Texas researchers determined that demographic factors also play a role.

African-Americans were 63 percent more likely to be in a double-occupancy hospital room. Hispanics were 44 percent more likely. However, economics might not fully explain the disparity since both groups tend to be admitted to older hospitals, where double-occupancy rooms are the norm.

Study author Liam O'Neill says the conversation should not be about how much a private room costs versus a double-occupancy room. Rather, he says it should be about how many lives can be saved.

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