HCA Healthcare
March 13, 2019

SOURCE: Nashville Business Journal

AUTHOR: Joel Stinnett

Dr. Jonathan Perlin is president of clinical services and chief medical officer of HCA Holdings Inc.

By taking advantage of something no one else in the industry possesses, practices resulting from a recent HCA Healthcare Inc. study may become an industry standard.

Using its scale as the nation's largest hospital operator to study more patients in less time, Nashville-based HCA has announced the results of a new medical trial. The study found that bathing certain patients every day in antiseptic soap, and sometimes using a nasal antibiotic, dramatically reduced bacteria and bloodstream infections — such as MRSA, which is notoriously tough to treat because it's resistant to several antibiotics.

HCA (NYSE: HCA) is the region's largest publicly traded company and the biggest hospital operator in the United States, with 184 hospitals across 20 states. The trial is HCA’s latest foray into the kinds of medical studies typically reserved for the university setting. The results of those trials can not only save lives but also shorten the length of patient stays and reduce hospital costs. These kinds of studies often have the effect of spotlighting those who do them, which could help HCA compete for doctors and patients alike — while potentially enhancing the "innovator" image HCA is seeking to foster.

The trial focused on patients not in intensive care units and evaluated whether the alternative approach reduced bacterial infections that patients developed while in the hospital. Nationwide, one in 20 patients acquire an infection while in a hospital, resulting in 80,000 deaths a year, said Dr. Jonathan Perlin, HCA's chief medical officer.

“This is really exciting because in hospitals across the United States, hospital-acquired infections are a major challenge,” Perlin said. “So this new approach … will help prevent that threat.”

The trial involved 330,000 patients at 53 HCA hospitals. With so many hospitals that it could access, HCA completed the study in 22 months, as opposed to the multiple years it would take to study that many people at a single hospital or small health system, Perlin said. HCA is aiming to flex that speed and muscle again: Perlin said the company is now doing a study across 123 of its hospitals that probes a different way to treat infections.

“This is a really powerful way of doing research that operates in the real world,” Perlin said.

The study was published in the peer-reviewed medical journal The Lancet. HCA conducted the study with the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute, the University of California and Rush University.

While the study found that there was no difference in the population overall, patients with medical devices experienced a 31 percent decrease in bloodstream infections and a nearly 40 percent decrease in antibiotic resistant organisms, specifically MRSA.