Hospital-Acquired Infections Still a Huge Threat to Patients

Perhaps the most troubling part of a recent study published yesterday in the Archives of Internal Medicine, which estimates that 48,000 people died in 2006 after developing deadly infections while in the hospital, was that many of the deaths involved healthy people who had minor procedures. Sepsis and pneumonia were the two most prevalent infections, accounting for one-third of the 1.7 million that American patients pick up every year while in the hospital, but the figure may be even higher according to the Study. And while certainly many hospital-acquired infections are unavoidable, many of the infections occur because of a lack of proper infection control. This is a serious and growing problem that some hospitals have addressed but many have not.

Additionally, the cost of these infections is having an enormous economic impact on our healthcare. Infections typically require patients to spend significant extra time in the hospital and cost $8.1 billion each year to treat, according to the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics, and Policy at Washington-based Resources for the Future. And the cost of prevention is cheap – follow hospital protocols for hand washing and sanitizing medical supplies. According to the CDC’s Guidelines for Hand-Hygiene in Healthcare Settings, an average of only 40% of healthcare workers adhered to hand hygiene protocols .Although, I would expect this figure to be higher today with the H1N1 fears and more state legislatures becoming involved in requiring hospitals to report these types of infections.

In a recent article published by the University of Calgary, faculty of nursing, healthcare workers often fail to comply with hospital hand washing protocols due to inconvenient access to hand washing utilities or shortage of time. The article recommends alcohol based hand rubs with no-touch dispenser in every patient room, outside elevators, in waiting rooms and outside staff workstations and medical equipment should be cleaned regularly.

Next time you or a family member has to go to the hospital. Please take notice of the hospital’s hand-washing protocols and wash your hands.