Setting hospital infection control policy : a decision-making framework incorporating health economics and healthcare epidemiology

Halton, Kate Amanda (2009) Setting hospital infection control policy : a decision-making framework incorporating health economics and healthcare epidemiology. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.



Reducing rates of healthcare acquired infection has been identified by the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care as a national priority. One of the goals is the prevention of central venous catheter-related bloodstream infection (CR-BSI). At least 3,500 cases of CR-BSI occur annually in Australian hospitals, resulting in unnecessary deaths and costs to the healthcare system between $25.7 and $95.3 million. Two approaches to preventing these infections have been proposed: use of antimicrobial catheters (A-CVCs); or a catheter care and management ‘bundle’. Given finite healthcare budgets, decisions about the optimal infection control policy require consideration of the effectiveness and value for money of each approach.


The aim of this research is to use a rational economic framework to inform efficient infection control policy relating to the prevention of CR-BSI in the intensive care unit. It addresses three questions relating to decision-making in this area: 1. Is additional investment in activities aimed at preventing CR-BSI an efficient use of healthcare resources? 2. What is the optimal infection control strategy from amongst the two major approaches that have been proposed to prevent CR-BSI? 3. What uncertainty is there in this decision and can a research agenda to improve decision-making in this area be identified?


A decision analytic model-based economic evaluation was undertaken to identify an efficient approach to preventing CR-BSI in Queensland Health intensive care units. A Markov model was developed in conjunction with a panel of clinical experts which described the epidemiology and prognosis of CR-BSI. The model was parameterised using data systematically identified from the published literature and extracted from routine databases. The quality of data used in the model and its validity to clinical experts and sensitivity to modelling assumptions was assessed. Two separate economic evaluations were conducted. The first evaluation compared all commercially available A-CVCs alongside uncoated catheters to identify which was cost-effective for routine use. The uncertainty in this decision was estimated along with the value of collecting further information to inform the decision. The second evaluation compared the use of A-CVCs to a catheter care bundle. We were unable to estimate the cost of the bundle because it is unclear what the full resource requirements are for its implementation, and what the value of these would be in an Australian context. As such we undertook a threshold analysis to identify the cost and effectiveness thresholds at which a hypothetical bundle would dominate the use of A-CVCs under various clinical scenarios.


In the first evaluation of A-CVCs, the findings from the baseline analysis, in which uncertainty is not considered, show that the use of any of the four A-CVCs will result in health gains accompanied by cost-savings. The MR catheters dominate the baseline analysis generating 1.64 QALYs and cost-savings of $130,289 per 1.000 catheters. With uncertainty, and based on current information, the MR catheters remain the optimal decision and return the highest average net monetary benefits ($948 per catheter) relative to all other catheter types. This conclusion was robust to all scenarios tested, however, the probability of error in this conclusion is high, 62% in the baseline scenario.

Using a value of $40,000 per QALY, the expected value of perfect information associated with this decision is $7.3 million. An analysis of the expected value of perfect information for individual parameters suggests that it may be worthwhile for future research to focus on providing better estimates of the mortality attributable to CR-BSI and the effectiveness of both SPC and CH/SSD (int/ext) catheters.

In the second evaluation of the catheter care bundle relative to A-CVCs, the results which do not consider uncertainty indicate that a bundle must achieve a relative risk of CR-BSI of at least 0.45 to be cost-effective relative to MR catheters. If the bundle can reduce rates of infection from 2.5% to effectively zero, it is cost-effective relative to MR catheters if national implementation costs are less than $2.6 million ($56,610 per ICU). If the bundle can achieve a relative risk of 0.34 (comparable to that reported in the literature) it is cost-effective, relative to MR catheters, if costs over an 18 month period are below $613,795 nationally ($13,343 per ICU).

Once uncertainty in the decision is considered, the cost threshold for the bundle increases to $2.2 million. Therefore, if each of the 46 Level III ICUs could implement an 18 month catheter care bundle for less than $47,826 each, this approach would be cost effective relative to A-CVCs. However, the uncertainty is substantial and the probability of error in concluding that the bundle is the cost-effective approach at a cost of $2.2 million is 89%.


This work highlights that infection control to prevent CR-BSI is an efficient use of healthcare resources in the Australian context. If there is no further investment in infection control, an opportunity cost is incurred, which is the potential for a more efficient healthcare system. Minocycline/rifampicin catheters are the optimal choice of antimicrobial catheter for routine use in Australian Level III ICUs, however, if a catheter care bundle implemented in Australia was as effective as those used in the large studies in the United States it would be preferred over the catheters if it was able to be implemented for less than $47,826 per Level III ICU.

Uncertainty is very high in this decision and arises from multiple sources. There are likely greater costs to this uncertainty for A-CVCs, which may carry hidden costs, than there are for a catheter care bundle, which is more likely to provide indirect benefits to clinical practice and patient safety. Research into the mortality attributable to CR-BSI, the effectiveness of SPC and CH/SSD (int/ext) catheters and the cost and effectiveness of a catheter care bundle in Australia should be prioritised to reduce uncertainty in this decision.

This thesis provides the economic evidence to inform one area of infection control, but there are many other infection control decisions for which information about the cost-effectiveness of competing interventions does not exist. This work highlights some of the challenges and benefits to generating and using economic evidence for infection control decision-making and provides support for commissioning more research into the cost-effectiveness of infection control.

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ID Code: 31145
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Graves, Nicholas & Mengersen, Kerrie
Additional Information: Recipient of 2009 Outstanding Doctoral Thesis Award
Keywords: catheter-related bloodstream infection, nosocomial infection, healthcare associated infection, infection control, antimicrobial catheters, healthcare epidemiology, health economics, economic evaluation, cost-effectiveness, health technology assessment, decision-making, decision modelling, value of information, ODTA
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Schools > School of Public Health & Social Work
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 03 Mar 2010 05:47
Last Modified: 18 Jun 2013 01:42

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