Healthcare News & Insights

CDC progress report: Are we reducing healthcare-related infections?

There’s good news in the fight to reduce healthcare-associated infections — the number of reported cases has gone down. The bad news: There’s still a lot more to do.

481250193The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has released reports updating providers on the prevalence of healthcare-associated infections (HAI). In general, they show the healthcare industry has made some developments in reducing the number of infections patients contract during their time in a hospital, though there’s still room for improvement.

Number crunching

The first report used 2011 data from 183 hospitals and found that 648,000 patients contracted 721,800 infections during hospital stays. About 75,000 of those patients died while hospitalized.

The report breaks down those numbers to show the most common HAIs:

  • 22% of patients contracted pneumonia
  • 22% suffered from surgical site infections
  • 17% experienced gastrointestinal infections
  • 13% had urinary tract infections, and
  • 10% developed bloodstream infections.

The second CDC report, the National and State Healthcare-associated Infection Progress Report,  gives those numbers a little more context. It uses data from over 12,5000 hospitals to break down HAIs by state to show the progress in reducing infections compared with national averages.

Over the past four years there has been a 44% reduction in central line-associated bloodstream infections and a 20% decrease in infections related to 10 surgical procedures on a national level. There’s also been a 3% reduction in catheter-associated urinary tract infections over the last three years.

Despite the obvious progress, the numbers still aren’t exactly heartening.

On any day in the U.S., one out of 25 hospital patients will contract an infection. According to Tom Frieden, CDC director, that means everyday over 200 patients will die from healthcare-associated infections during their hospital stay.  

That means reducing HAIs remains a top priority for both the federal government and hospitals.

What can be done?

Federal programs to incentivize care improvement or quality reporting have certainly helped keep healthcare providers accountable, and thus reduced HAIs.

However, cutting down HAI cases even further will take continued collaborative effort between hospital administrators, staff and even patients.

In fact, involving patients in provider accountability may be the next logical step in the fight against HAIs.

According to a study performed at a women’s hospital in Canada, doctors were more likely to practice good hygiene and wash their hands when they felt that patients were watching them.

Patients in the study were given survey cards to report if the hospital staff was washing their hands. Since the staff knew they were under more patient scrutiny, they were more motivated to improve their hand-washing practices.

That scrutiny also motivated doctors to have more in-depth discussions about infection control with patients.

Encouraging patients to ask doctors questions about their treatment, medications and infection-prevention methods for complicated procedures are all ways to keep patients engaged and providers on-board with disease-prevention efforts.

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