To reduce preventable infections and deaths, most hospitals will begin reporting next month the number of patients who contract bloodstream infections following treatment in intensive care units, McClatchy Newspapers reports.

Later in 2011, the information will be made public on the federal government’s “hospital compare” website that will show which hospitals best protect their patients from deadly but avoidable infections. While the reporting requirement is not mandatory, hospitals that do not participate will lose 2 percent of their Medicare funding beginning in 2013.

Catheters — medical tubes used to administer fluid and medications, as well as to draw blood — can carry pathogens that cause inflections after entering a patient’s bloodstream. They are inserted into patients’ veins, and are often left in the body for several weeks.

In the U.S., patients contract an average of nearly 250,000 bloodstream infections from catheters annually, and they are linked to about 31,000 patient deaths every year. Research has shown that almost all of the infections are preventable if hospital staffs take the proper precautions.

Experts hope that increased scrutiny will focus more attention on hospital hygiene and shorten the average length of hospital stays.

The reporting system is the latest is a series of steps the government has taken to try to reduce health care-related infections. In 2012, hospitals will have to report the number and rate of surgical site infections.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates, Americans contract two million infections every year while receiving medical care, at a cost of $6.5 billion for the extra treatment. The most recent available data show that infections from medical care lead to about 90,000 preventable U.S. deaths annually.

Even so,  the rate of infections in developing countries is more than three times higher than in the United States, according to an analysis of 220 studies by World Health Organization researchers published in the medical journal The Lancet.

The team looked at data going back to 1995 on a variety of health care-related infections, including bloodstream, surgical site and  urinary tract, and found that the infection rate was 15.5 per 100 patients in developing countries. In Europe the rate  is 7.1; in the U.S., it’s 4.5.

The researchers recommended simple, low-cost measures, such as better hand hygiene, to help reduce the infection rate, the BBC reports.