Are You at Risk for Health-Acquired Infections?

Healthcare-associated infections, also known as HAIs, are becoming a very prevalent issue in the healthcare world. More and more often, we read about a new superbug responsible for sickening or perhaps even killing patients who are staying in hospitals–or sometimes those who have recently visited one. For instance, in a UCLA hospital in Los Angeles in February, the superbug CRE was identified as being responsible for 2 deaths and many more cases of illness. In fact, up to 170 patients were exposed to the conditions that were responsible for 2 deaths.

The hospital claimed they followed manufacturer directions for sterilization, but the two endoscopes that were used to treat pancreaticobiliary conditions were in fact used for nearly a year before the issue was realized. In addition, 14 hospitals in Connecticut were penalized for the number of HAIs they experiencedand in consequence saw a 1 percent reduction in Medicare funding.

Tracking HAIs

When an outbreak caused by HAIs is brought to initial awareness, how do we track it to the source? Most of the time, you can follow the sickness to the source by way of hospital self-reporting. In 32 states hospitals are required to report any HAIs to the National Healthcare Safety Network, a function of the CDC. However, the remaining 18 states in the U.S., it is not required to report these infections. You can see if your state is required to report here.)

If a hospital in a state such as Ohio experiences an outbreak of healthcare acquired infections, it is not required to report that to the CDC. Because of such, the likelihood of spreading the illness outside of the hospital can increase. Even in states where hospitals report their HAIs, that information is often not easily accessible to patient.

One lawmaker in Connecticut is trying to change that by promoting a bill that would attempt to make such information more wide accessible. Although it may help if all states were required to report in similar fashion, much more is possible to reduce and further prevent HAIs.

Prevention and Reduction

While all U.S.-based hospitals have some sort of disinfection protocol in place, each is also required to sterilize all critical surfaces and instruments, most notably between uses. However, many times–and in order to reduce costs–hospitals use lower-grade disinfectants in patient rooms and common high traffic areas. In order to reduce the frequency of HAIs, hospitals should use an EPA registered hospital grade disinfectant on all surfaces throughout the facility. This would assist with overall reduction of potential for cross contamination between patients.

In addition, hospitals should attempt to keep post-operative patients confined until it is confirmed they are healthy enough for extensive interaction. This is because the chances of contracting infections, such as CRE or C.diff, increase immensely after hospital operations.

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