Have you, a loved one, or a friend gotten
more sick by being in a hospital? We know it happens. One out of 25 hospitalized patients
contract an infection from exposure to bugs in the facility. We call these nosocomial
or healthcare-acquired infections. In the US, 1.7 million healthcare-associated infections
are connected to about 100,000 deaths per year. So, what are the greatest infection
risks in hospitals? Ironically, four of the most common types of hospital-acquired infections
are caused by the devices and procedures employed to care for patients. Urinary tract infections
contracted from catheters are the most common type of infection. Surgical site infections
are the second most common and are generally caused by touch contamination. A lung infection
known as ventilator-associated pneumonia with the use of a ventilator holds the highest
mortality rate. And finally, bloodstream infections are a persistent danger. Those that stem specifically
from vascular catheter use are especially deadly and the costliest of all hospital-acquired
infections. So, what are hospitals doing to keep you safe?
Well, even small precautions can have big effects. Handwashing, for example, is highly
effective for reducing the risk of touch contamination from caregiver to patient. Likewise, a simple
checklist of best practices used while inserting and maintaining venous access catheters has
been shown to greatly reduce avoidable and costly bloodstream infections. The checklist
includes steps like using a full sterile barrier including mask, cap and gown during insertion,
ensuring that the access port is disinfected prior to each medication administration or
blood draw by scrubbing or using disinfecting port protectors and being sure to remove any
catheter as soon as it is no longer needed. Sadly, the success of hospitals in reducing
infection rates differs significantly from one hospital to the next and even across units
within the same hospital. At the heart of top performing hospitals is a strong executive
commitment to a culture of safety and a focus on patient satisfaction. Do your homework. There are resources you
can use to see how your local hospitals rank in their quality of care. But what about the
infection risk for patients of outpatient surgery, home infusion, TPN and other conditions
treated outside the hospital? More than 60 percent of surgical procedures occur in ambulatory
centers that discharge patients to home based care on the same day. Approximately 40,000
people in the United States are receiving TPN at home and hundreds of thousands of dialysis,
cancer and immuno-compromised patients leave the hospital with central lines in place.
This means that more and more patients and their caregivers take responsibility for preventing
infections while managing their own wound care, medication regimens, and catheter maintenance. If receiving care at home, ask your physician
for detailed guidance on proper disinfection techniques and tools that work in the home.
For example, a Curos disinfecting port protector can be easily used to disinfect IV connectors
with alcohol and keep ports protected between uses for patient and caregiver peace of mind.
The important thing to know is that infections that come from healthcare are preventable,
not inevitable. There are organizations, health systems and individuals all across the U.S.
making great improvements to honor their commitments to first do no harm. With concerted efforts by healthcare providers,
payers and patients, we can achieve zero healthcare-acquired infections and that uneasy feeling of entering
a hospital will be replaced with confidence in receiving quality care. Does your hospital
follow safe disinfection practices? Be aware. Be safe.