a few strategies for lowering the occurrence of hais

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released an eye-opening report last month examining the rates of hospital-acquired infections throughout our nation’s hospitals. While the report revealed that some notable progress was being made concerning the fight against these HAIs, it also revealed that they remain a very real threat to patient safety.

To illustrate, consider some of the report’s findings concerning HAIs in 2011, the most recent year for which such data is available:

  • There were over 720,000 cases of patients acquiring HAIs, with 75,000 of these infections ultimately proving fatal.
  • The most common type of HAIs included surgical site infections (22 percent), pneumonia (22 percent) and gastrointestinal infections (17 percent).
  • Clostridium difficile (C. diff) occurred the most often, causing 12 percent of HAIs.

In recognition of these startling figures and the accompanying need for hospitals to limit readmissions, improve care quality and keep patients healthy, the medical news website FierceHealthcare has devised a five-step plan that it says hospitals can implement to help lower the overall number of HAIs.

The benefits of proper hand hygiene should be shared with patients, staff

Not surprisingly, the site’s experts recommend that hospitals should communicate to patients that it’s perfectly okay for them to ask the medical professional conducting an examination whether they have washed or otherwise sanitized their hands, and, if not, to request that they do so.

Furthermore, it’s recommended that hospitals invest time and resources into creating comprehensive infection prevention polices and educational initiatives designed to educate staff members about the basics of HAIs, including risk factors, symptoms, prevention and treatment.

Red blood cell transfusions should be limited

According to the site’s experts, hospitals can help lower the rates of everything from wound infections and sepsis to pneumonia and mediastinitis by limiting red blood cell transfusions.

The basis for this recommendation comes from a recently published study by researchers at the University of Michigan, which found that infection rates — including those referenced immediately above — can be dropped by up to 20 percent by reducing red blood cell transfusions.

“Many people are beginning to accept that we can make a difference — despite being taught in medical school that blood transfusions ‘might help and can’t hurt,'” said one medical professional. “What we’ve found is actually the opposite, that it can hurt and it rarely helps.”

To be continued …

Those who have been unduly harmed by an HAI or infection acquired in another medical setting should strongly consider speaking with an experienced attorney to learn more about their rights and options for securing justice.

Source: FierceHealthcare, “5 ways to reduce hospital-acquired infections,” Katie Sullivan, April 24, 2014; FierceHealthcare, “1 in 25 patients acquire hospital infections,” Zack Budryk, March 26, 2014

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