By Jennie N. Eilerts
Healthcare Acquired Infections continue to be a preventable but serious threat in the healthcare industry. Alarming research has found that about one out of every 25 hospital patients contracts at least one HAI.
Worse, many healthcare-associated infections are extremely dangerous—possibly even deadly. Although great advances have been made, it is crucial to limit HAIs to prevent further complications for patients.
Common Healthcare Acquired Infections
One of the most common healthcare-acquired infection is known as Central Line-Associated Bloodstream Infection. According to the Center for Disease Control, this infection results in thousands of deaths each year and billions of dollars in added costs to the U.S. healthcare system.
Another common HAI is Catheter-associated Urinary Tract Infections. CAUTIs are the most common type of healthcare-associated infections reported to the National Healthcare Safety Network. Most urinary tract infections are treatable but some prove to be highly resistant to antibiotic therapy.
Surgical Site Infections are those that occur post-surgically at the site where the surgery was performed. These infections can range from relatively mild and superficial to quite serious, involving organs or tissues underneath the skin. In some cases, drug-resistant infections such as MRSA can cause irreversible damage.
Finally, the last major common healthcare-associated infection noted by the CDC is ventilator-associated pneumonia. This is a lung infection that develops when a patient is placed on a ventilator. These infections may occur if pathogens enter through the endotracheal tube and take hold in the patient’s lungs.
Prevention of Healthcare Acquired Diseases
The CDC has set guidelines, procedures, and checklists for each of these infections in attempts to increase public safety. These tools stress the importance of sanitation and proper hand hygiene.
According to an article published by The National Center for Biotechnology Information, a study concluded that “Hand hygiene is now regarded as one of the most important elements of infection control activities. In the wake of the growing burden of health care-associated infections (HCAIs), the increasing severity of illness and complexity of treatment, superimposed by multi-drug resistant (MDR) pathogen infections, healthcare practitioners (HCPs) are reverting back to the basics of infection preventions by simple measures like hand hygiene. This is because enough scientific evidence supports the observation that if properly implemented, hand hygiene alone can significantly reduce the risk of cross-transmission of infection in healthcare facilities (HCFs)1–5”.
What This Means For Healthcare Facilities
Many healthcare facilities must implement and maintain better procedures for hand hygiene. This includes more education and reinforcement for healthcare professionals.
The simple act of thoroughly washing one’s hands between patients can greatly decrease the likelihood of disease transmission.
Today, there is hand hygiene technology including advanced software to measure hand hygiene in hospitals and healthcare facilities. Using this technology not only helps prevent the spread of disease but also encourages better compliance from healthcare workers.
While there is no absolute way to eliminate the risk of contracting an HAI when receiving medical treatment at a healthcare facility, thoughtfully designed and well-executed care processes and procedures can limit the preventable transmission of these infections.
Proper hand hygiene is key to limiting healthcare-acquired infections. Providing healthcare workers with these new technologies, along with proper education and awareness, lessens the threat of contracting a preventable HAI.
Jennie Eilerts is a freelance medical writer based in Denver, Colorado. She specializes in human and veterinary medicine, having spent 20 years in a clinical setting for the latter. When she's not busy writing, she can be found hiking, rock hunting, exploring Denver and spending time with her husband and horses.
Centers for Disease Control - https://www.cdc.gov/hai/bsi/bsi.html
National Healthcare Safety Network - https://www.cdc.gov/nhsn/pdfs/training/2017/Scalise_March22.pdf
Centers for Disease Control - https://www.cdc.gov/hai/vap/vap_faqs.html
Indian Journal of Medical Research/NCBI - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3249958/