Hospital Acquired Infections & How to Prevent Them

Despite the various protocols in hospitals that focus on creating a sterile environment, hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) are still a major concern in the United States. Below are a few of the shocking figures about HAIs, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

  • On any given day, approximately one in 25 hospital patients has at least one HAI.
  • In 2011, there were an estimated 722,000 cases of HAIs.
  • Of the patients who had HAIs in 2011, roughly 75,000 died.

Common Types of HAIs

Below are common HAIs in America.

  • Pneumonia (Mostly ventilator-associated pneumonia)
  • Gastrointestinal illnesses
  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs) (Primarily catheter-associated urinary tract infections or CAUTIs)
  • Primary bloodstream infections (Also referred to as central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSIs.)
  • Surgical site infections (SSIs)
  • Clostridium difficile infections
  • Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) (An antibiotic-resistant bacteria that’s difficult to treat)

Preventing HAIs

The government is taking steps to try to reduce HAIs. In 2008, the Federal Steering Committee for the Prevention of Health Care-Associated Infections was established to address the issue. The following year, the committee created the National Action Plan to Prevent Health Care-Associated Infections: Road Map to Elimination (HAI Action Plan), which lays out strategies and procedures for minimizing risks of HAI.

When it comes to HAI prevention, much lies in the hands of the hospital staff. There are scores of education materials and effective workplace practices by which those in the healthcare profession need to abide in order to decrease HAIs. This includes things such as using proper hygiene, using best surgical practices, and using better health screening processes.

However, there are also a few things patients can do to reduce their own risks. Below are six HAI prevention practices the CDC recommends for patients

  • Speak up and ask your doctor what he or she is doing to protect you from HAIs.
  • Keep your hands clean. Wash regularly after touching things in the hospital.
  • Ask if tests will be administered to ensure you are given the right antibiotic.
  • Be on the lookout for any signs of infection (fever, redness, pain, drainage, etc.) and alert your doctor immediately if you notice any.
  • Hospital-acquired diarrhea can be deadly. If you have three or more bouts of diarrhea in a 24-hour period, notify your doctor.
  • Ensure your vaccinations are up-to-date.

More Patient Resources

For more informative articles of interest to patients, peruse the Cordisco & Saile LLC blog. For legal counsel regarding an HAI, you can contact our office at 215-642-2335.