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The Infection Prevention Strategy (TIPS)

Sep 20, 2019

Clostridium difficile (klos-TRID-e-um dif-uh-SEEL), often called C. difficile or C. diff impacts 453,000 people every year. And with 29,000 associated deaths, it takes more lives than AIDS and drunk-driving combined. Yet, most people have never even heard of it. That’s a big problem because you can’t protect yourself from a threat when you don’t even know it exists.

The impact on the business of healthcare is significant too. A study published in the American Journal of Infection Control found that C. diff-associated diarrhea (CDAD) increases hospital costs by 40% per case (an average of $7,285 ) and puts those infected at high risk for longer hospital stays and readmissions.  Some even believe those numbers are likely underestimated.

C. diff presents us with an interesting problem at the cross-section of Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC). It’s an environmental bacterium that’s found pretty much everywhere and is difficult to kill, but it’s usually held in check by the good bacteria in our bodies. The problem usually occurs when a patient is in a weakened state from some other healthcare intervention. That may be an antibiotic treatment for another healthcare-associated infection or chemotherapy, etc. With our bodies in a weakened state and our good bacteria depleted by antibiotics, we become susceptible to C. diff. So, it’s important that we avoid unnecessary antibiotics and execute on all the other IPAC practices like proper hand hygiene and surface cleaning in the hospital so that, as our guest puts it, we can disrupt the chain of events that allow to C. diff to proliferate.


This episode originally aired on The #HCBiz Show! on April 26th, 2017.


On this episode, we’re joined by the co-founder and Executive Director of the Peggy Lillis Foundation (PLF), Christian John Lillis.  Like so many people who’ve dedicated their lives to driving change in the healthcare industry, Christian has a very powerful “why”. He lost his mother to a clostridium difficile (C. diff) infection in April 2010. After struggling with the fact that he lost his mother to a disease he never heard of, and later finding out that it impacts so many people, Christian, along with his brother Liam, founded PLF and are building a nationwide C. diff awareness movement by educating the public, empowering advocates and shaping policy.

Christian gives us a deep and personal take on his family’s experience with C. Diff and the work that the Peggy Lillis Foundation is doing to help. We discuss:

  1. What is clostridium difficile (C. diff)?
  2. Is C. diff a Healthcare-Associated Infection (HAI) or something else?
  3. How important are hand hygiene and environmental cleaning in preventing the spread of C. diff?
  4. Why haven’t more people heard of C. diff?
  5. Why is it so hard to measure the true impact of C. diff on our health system? How do we fix that?
  6. Why do only some states require reporting on outbreaks? How does that affect the business of healthcare? How does it affect the patients?
  7. What is the Prevention and Public Health Fund? Why is it under fire and what is the impact to the CDC, states and beyond?
  8. What is the financial impact of C. diff?


Christian’s story is powerful and it’s full of wisdom that can help patients, families, and providers. In our quest to unravel the business of healthcare, it’s important to understand the people we serve and how our work impacts their lives. This is a crash course and I hope it touches you as it did me. Enjoy.

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