A medical specialist says infections caused by poor procedures during surgery can cause huge distress and disruption to patients.
The Health Quality and Safety Commission has added preventing surgical site infections to a list of markers designed to improve patient safety.
Hospitals are measured not only on how well they prepare a patient's skin for surgery, but also how well they administer antibiotics before any incision is made.
The clinical leader of infection control at Wellington's Capital and Coast DHB, Tim Blackmore, says getting it right can be extremely important to patients.
Surgical infections, which occur in up to 5 percent of cases, can cause pain, disability and even death.
The Government says in its second quarterly report on public hospitals that they are making steady improvements in measures of what are known as quality and safety markers in health.
The markers cover use of a surgical safety checklist, reducing harm from falls, and reducing infections linked to hand hygiene and catheters in intensive care.
An Associate Health Minister, Jo Goodhew, says it's encouraging to see DHBs making improvements but there is more to do.
"We're asking that DHBs measure whether the antibiotic was given 60 minutes before - basically what they call the moment when 'knife to skin' happened," she says. "And we're also asking that it be the right dose in 95 percent of operations, and also that the skin is appropriately prepared."