There is a lot of concern about healthcare associated infections (HAIs). From hospital staff and administrators, patients and even the government entities, awareness of the severity of the situation is at an all time high. While HAIs are actually very common, infection control procedures can cut the incidence of healthcare associated infections by 70%. This reduction can help; according to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) realize a savings in healthcare costs of 25.0 billion to 31.5 billion a year. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), HAIs are one of the top ten leading causes of death in the United States per year.
How Healthcare Associated Infections are Spread
The majority of healthcare associated infections are preventable. Healthcare workers need to be properly trained in infection control procedures. From the simple steps of proper hand washing and personal protective equipment to sterilization of equipment and the use of antimicrobials, the prevention of HAIs is literally in the hands of healthcare workers. Proper monitoring and retraining is also a necessary step in breaking the deadly cycle of healthcare associated infections.
HAIs are also spread through the use of catheters, ventilators and other medical devices. Improper care, maintenance and sterilization are reason behind the spread of healthcare associated infections when a device is in use. Once again, the key to prevention is proper training and oversight.
Other factors have also been shown to increase the rate of healthcare associated infections. These include the physical layout of the facility, such as open beds together, contaminated ventilation systems and a too high nurse to patient ratio.
Prevention is the Key
As pointed out above. The single biggest factor in controlling the spread of healthcare associated infections is prevention. Prevention has to be part of the institutional culture. In the healthcare setting, every worker from the environmental service worker to the top administrators has to know and realize their part in helping stop the spread of HAIs. Everyone needs to be trained in infection control techniques. A basic understanding of how hospital associated infections are spread is also germane to the culture of prevention. It does not stop here though. Every healthcare worker also needs to go through annual competency testing to make sure they thoroughly understand their roles in the prevention of healthcare associated infections. Lastly, visitors to healthcare facilities also need to be educated in how they can do their part in preventing the spread of hospital associated infections.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Department of Health and Human Services
Florida Department of Health