By Lori Baker
Typically, when a person goes to the emergency room or is admitted to the hospital, that individual isn't well enough to fight the illness at home and needs a specific course of treatment or surgery to get well. The healing process may take a few days or even weeks depending on the severity of the patient's condition. A priority of the medical professional must always be “do no harm.” A person who goes to the hospital to heal is at a risk of getting something even worse if the staff members don't carefully comply with the guidelines that are proven to prevent hospital-acquired infections, or HAIs. Neglecting to do so can result in many ramifications, including hospital budget deficits.
Monetary Implications of Infectious Diseases
Hospital-borne infectious diseases cost billions of dollars each year. This results in raised insurance premiums, higher co-pays for patients, and inadequate coverage for medical costs by insurance companies. Malpractice insurance costs may increase, absences from work are higher, and trust and respect in the hospitals, facilities, and other places where medical care is provided can decline.
Many infectious diseases have become resistant to antibiotics thus the battle to discover new super antibiotics is underway and this is quite expensive. The monetary implications of hospital-borne infectious diseases trickle down to all facets of medicine affecting everyone, most importantly the patient.
What Hospital Practitioners Can Do
Hospital practitioners, nurses, and caregivers in the hospital system and other healthcare facilities can decrease the risk of infectious diseases by educating their personnel often about the causes of HAIs. One of the most important things medical personnel can do is to wash their hands properly between patients. Unfortunately, personnel who comply with proper handwashing practices in the workplace is under 40 percent.
Quality control can ensure compliance with these rules, and should include harsh punishments if the healthcare worker doesn't abide by the protocols.
These poor percentages of compliance can result in higher occurrences of infections of the bloodstream, urinary tract, gastrointestinal systems, chest, or surgical sites.
Hospital-Acquired Infections: What Causes Them?
Research indicates that the microbes that cause these healthcare-associated infections are often transferred from the hands of healthcare workers to the patients. Other factors also play a role in spreading these healthcare-associated infections, such as the use of medical devices during a surgery or procedure, or even the overuse of antibiotics.
The Role of Hand Hygiene in Preventing HAIs
The microbes that cause infectious diseases can live for hours on a healthcare worker's hands, therefore, the individual can infect multiple patients. Studies indicate that there could be a 70 percent decrease in HAIs if all hospital personnel and those involved in providing care at other medical facilities would comply with proper techniques, especially correctly washing their hands between patients.
In 2007, the medical cost of HAIs was approximately 35.7 billion to 45 billion for inpatient hospital care. Educating staff members and implementing proper preventive measures that have been proven over time will gradually decrease the exorbitant cost of HAIs—a cost that is passed on to everyone.
Lori Baker has been employed in the medical field for over three decades. She enjoys writing about medical issues that affect everyone in the community. She has a special interest in writing about new discoveries in holistic and preventative medicine.
Rid: Hospital Infection Fact Sheet
World Health Organization: Evidence for Hand Hygiene Guidelines
Healthy People.gov: Healthcare-Associated Infections
CDC: The Direct Medical Costs of Healthcare-Associated Infections in U.S. Hospitals and the Benefits of Prevention