Healthcare News & Insights

Hospitals need to lower their C. diff rates: Here’s how

The battle against hospital-acquired infections rages on. While rates for some infections are down, hospitals need to do a better job of keeping patients from contracting others – particularly C. diff. 

ThinkstockPhotos-177720474Many hospitals are missing the mark for C. diff prevention. Per data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nine out of 10 patients who contract C. diff were exposed to the infection in a healthcare setting.

And it’s the most common bacteria that causes infections in hospitals.

Poor results

According to newly updated ratings from Consumer Reports, about one-third of hospitals aren’t measuring up at all with C. diff prevention – they received a low rating for fighting the infection, which means their rates of C. diff infection fall short of the national benchmark.

Even notable hospitals are struggling to rein in C. diff infections. Facilities with low ratings include renowned teaching hospitals such as the Cleveland Clinic, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Only about 28% of hospitals in the U.S. earned one of Consumer Reports’ top scores for C. diff prevention. Few were teaching hospitals.

Strategies to stop C. diff

The CDC said there are several reasons why hospitals, including top-notch facilities, can’t quite get a handle on stopping the spread of C. diff. And most of them can be directly attributed to the behavior of healthcare workers.

To get more control over these infections, the agency suggests facilities and their staff use the following three prevention strategies:

  1. Prevent infections from catheters and after surgery. Catheters should only be used on patients when they’re needed. All surgeries should be performed based on federal recommendations for safe procedures, and catheter insertion and care should also be held to the same high standards. In addition, catheters should be removed from patients as soon as they’re no longer necessary.
  2. Prevent bacteria from spreading. The No. 1 way to keep bacteria at bay is to follow best practices for hand hygiene. Also, when treating patients who are infected with resistant bacteria, clinical staff should wear gloves and gowns, and use dedicated equipment set aside for that patient only. Knowledge is also key to prevention, so all staff should be aware of any bacterial outbreaks in their hospital – or even nearby – and take the necessary precautions.
  3. Improve antibiotic use. Overprescribing antibiotics not only contributes to the spread of superbugs in hospitals, it also weakens patients’ immune systems, making them more vulnerable to contracting illnesses like C. diff. With that in mind, clinicians need to justify the need for all antibiotic prescriptions before they’re given to patients. When antibiotics are necessary, cultures should be taken immediately, and the drugs should be started promptly. Antibiotics should only be prescribed for the appropriate frequency, duration and dosage for the patient’s illness. Cultures should be taken regularly to assess the need for the drugs, and they should be discontinued once they aren’t necessary.

Curbing dangerous hospital-acquired infections such as C. diff is a group effort. And all clinical staff should understand their roles and responsibilities in the process.

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