What Is An HAI?

Hospital-Acquired Infections (HAIs) are infections contracted inside a hospital facility. Typically, patients with compromised immune systems, such as cancer patients, newborns or the elderly, are the most likely to contract an HAI. These infections are the result of cross-contamination and 70% of them are resistant to antibiotics. On any given day, one in 25 patients has an HAI.

How Common Are HAI’s?

722,000 people suffer from HAIs in hospitals each year, which is 4% of all hospital admissions. 75,000 of those people die during hospitalization. In the past 20 years the overall incidence of HAIs has increased by 36% in the United States. A recent study in JAMA Internal Medicine found that almost 441,000 patients contract one of five HAIs each year, and about 50% of these infections are avoidable. In effect, HAIs are infecting a population the size of Atlanta every year.

How Do HAI’s Occur?

The short answer to this question is “cross-contamination.” However, that can happen in a variety of ways. The most common occurrences happen through central line-associated blood-stream infections (CLABSI), ventilator-associated infections (which can occur via surgical site infection (SSI)), catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTI), ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP) and Clostridium difficile infections (CDI). Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) was added as a sub-category under SSIs and CLABSIs.

What Has Been Done to Stop HAI’s?

In 2009 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) developed the National Action Plan to help prevent Hospital-Acquired Infections. They set “reachable” HAI prevention goals. The plan was divided into three phases, each one focusing on a different type of healthcare facility. Goals included prioritizing the research agenda, integrating policy options for linking payment incentives/disincentives to quality of care, raising awareness of HAIs and enhancing regulatory oversight of hospitals. The CDC publishes an HAI progress report on a regular basis to update the public on the results of these goals. The CDC estimates that up to 70% of HAIs are preventable.

How Can HAI’s Be Stopped?

Antibiotic resistance is not going to go away anytime soon. So the best way to prevent the spread of HAIs is to avoid cross-contamination and kill harmful microorganisms at the source. Consistent and effective sanitization of primary fomites is key. One of the major issues in a lot of hospitals is compliance. Hospital employees are busy and stretched in many different directions and tasks like cleaning a keyboard can be put on the back burner.

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