Articles, Blog

Rush to Brush: Oral hygiene is weapon against infection

August 22, 2019

DIAN BAKER: When patients come into
the hospital to receive treatment, sometimes, unfortunately,
they can acquire a hospital infection. In the case of pneumonia, it’s responsible
for 1 in 4 hospital-acquired infections, and it’s associated with 15
to 30 percent mortality rate. Postoperative pneumonia
is a serious condition. It requires antibiotics, oftentimes
resulting in extended hospitalizations, increased costs,
and there’s risk of dying. About seven years ago, we did
a national study with 21 hospitals. It turns out that pneumonia
comes from germs in the mouth. Those germs are finding their way
into the lungs and people whose health
is already compromised just by the nature that
they’re in the hospital, and you have a perfect setup
for the pneumonia. We also found there was
a lack of oral care and we found,
in some of our studies, that it’s not even being done
one time a day. When patients brush their teeth, they’re
basically taking their bacterial count from hundreds of millions
down to just a few, and this greatly reduces
their risk of pneumonia. We have implemented toothbrushing
as pneumonia prevention in several hospitals
across the United States. In one hospital,
in Sacramento, California, we’ve been able to reduce non-ventilator hospital-acquired pneumonia by over 70 percent. This means that 61 lives were saved
and the hospital saved $5.8 million. Now we know it works.
We just need to get the word out. MARY LEE CONICELLA:
We read an article
in theWall Street Journalthat featured a couple of studies
that were done in hospital systems. We thought that was such an easy step
to take to improve health that we decided we would try
to see if we could do that using Aetna’s data that tells us
which of our members are going to have a hospital stay
in the near future. That gives us an opportunity
to reach out to that member in advance, before they go to the hospital, and we send them
an oral health care kit. DANIEL KNECHT:
In these kits, we have Listerine Zero,
Colgate toothpaste, and a soft-bristled,
high-quality toothbrush. What I’ve been really thrilled about
is the collaboration we’ve had with Johnson & Johnson
and Colgate. They’ve been just
phenomenal partners. DIAN BAKER:
To me, the most important part
of that kit is the education. There is a card
for the healthcare providers to inform them about
the importance of this, too. A lot of advances in human health
are basic innovations like sanitation,
like clean water supplies and something like this
fits into that broader narrative of simple innovation that really
can positively impact population health. Rush to Brush differentiates Aetna
as a health company because it’s a way to use data
and then empower and engage members. I think we’re hitting
the triple aim here. It’s improved member experience,
it’s better population health, and it’s reducing total costs
on the healthcare system.

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