Hospital-Associated Infections Remain Rampant

Leave a Comment
April 24th, 2014

Hospital-Associated InfectionsThe CDC recently issued two reports on the progress US hospitals have made in reducing the number of Hospital-Associated Infections (HAIs). HAIs remain an expensive form of wasted healthcare spending – with associated costs reaching $9.8 billion USD a year.  To make matters worse, the US does not currently have a system in place to effectively measure and track the progress of the initiatives implemented to reduce or prevent hospital associated infections.

In 1970, the number of annually accrued HAIs reached 2.1 million. That dropped to 1.7 million between 1990 and 2002. The most recent report indicates an estimated 722,000 HAIs per year - which is very significant progression when looked at in terms of the number of patients who are annually admitted to hospitals nationwide.

Regardless the progression, it remains that almost 75,000 patients die each year due to hospital-associated infections. Many of these infections result from unhygienic practices and a lack of quality control protocols. Some can stem from the overuse of common antibiotics to the point that they are no longer effective.  The most common HAIs include pneumonia, surgical site infections, device/implant infections, and gastrointestinal infections.

The CDC hopes its latest findings will help to develop the standards for measuring these quality controls and better address the certain types of infections classed as HAIs.

The reports were conducted amongst two different sample scales allowing the CDC to measure both progression and remaining areas of concern. The first report, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, was carried out during 2011 amongst 183 hospitals in 10 states. From its results, the CDC was able to approximate the current status of hospital-associated infections amongst US hospitals. Its findings confirmed the progress that has been made since 2002, with only 721,800 HAIs infecting 648,000 patients annually – that figure translates to approximately 1 in 25 patients per day being infected.

The second report, published under the title National and State Healthcare-Associated Infections Progress Report in conjunction with a 5-year action plan towards reducing HAIs, was carried out between 2008 and 2012. The report shed more light on the progress being made to prevent specific types of HAIs. The most noteworthy of its findings were a 44% decrease in central line-associated bloodstream infections and a 20% decrease in infections associated with common surgical procedures. You can download the full report here.

While the findings of both reports remain positive, there are still many ways in which the number of hospital-associated infections could greatly be reduced. These include:

For Policymakers...

  1. Policymakers and governing bodies must support the initiatives towards reducing HAIs and shift focus towards improving patient safety.
  2. Policymakers and governing bodies must create a valid and widely accepted performance-measuring system that can be applied to multiple types of medical facilities nationwide.
  3. Policymakers and governing bodies must facilitate the advance of implementation science to help medical staff translate medical evidence into their everyday practice.

For Hospitals...

  1. Hospitals must focus on the safety and quality of care in the same manner in which they focus on financial performance.
  2. Hospitals should develop a chain of accountability that links all levels of the organization. This will allow staff to maintain a shared understanding of their goals, their individual roles, and receive feedback on their performance.
  3. Hospitals should emphasize the role of frontline caregivers in preventing infections and other harms.

For Patients...

  1. Patients must also take measures to protect themselves by verifying their caregivers have followed proper hygiene protocols and all devices or equipment have been properly cleaned.
  2. Patients can request that tests are run to ensure antibiotics and other medicines used to fight infections are actually working.

As we shift the focus back to quality of care, hospital-associated infections can become a critical factor in not only reducing healthcare wastes, but also improving a patient's care cycle and outcomes. For hospital officials and administrators looking to learn new ways to reduce these types of healthcare wastes and malpractices, subscribe to our Health Insights newsletter to read more insightful articles and posts on this topic or follow us on LinkedIn here.