Healthcare-associated infections (HAI) are infection issues that arise in patients during a stay, treatment course, or surgery in a medical facility. Infections associated with intention to care for and improve a patient’s condition are common due to a range of factors including lack of environmental education and hygiene guideline protocol.
Fortunately, adequate hygiene and preparation can significantly reduce the chance of HAIs occurring in your medical facility. In this blog post, we will better understand healthcare-associated infections, the type of effects they have on patients, and how to prevent the most common instances.
What are healthcare-associated infections?
Health-associated infections are infections caused by or contracted during medical treatment or surgery. Invasive devices, open procedure, and unsafe environmental conditions can all lead to HAIs.
The following are the most common healthcare-associated infections:
- Clostridium difficile
- Bloodstream infections or CLABSI
- Surgical site infections
- Catheter-associated UTIs
Clostridium difficile is a bacteria that infects the bowels and causes diarrhea. It is the most common in patients treated by antibiotics. Patients on antibiotics are at additional risk for C diff as their antibiotics kill all body bacteria, including good bacteria that protect against infection. About 14,000 patients die every year from this infection, as it is highly contagious and detrimental to the body.
HAI pneumonia is specific to pneumonia caused by ventilators. Ventilators are machines used to help a patient breathe; a tube is placed into a patient’s mouth, nose or a hole in the neck to deliver oxygen to the patient’s lungs. However, ventilators run a big risk of association with pneumonia.
Central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSIs) are extremely common in hospitals, resulting in thousands of deaths each year. Prevention of bloodstream infections is possible and not only it can save lives but also save the healthcare industry billions of dollars each year.
Surgical site infections
Surgical site infections refer to infections that patients develop at the location of their surgery. Some infections are limited to the skin that covers the surgical area; more severe cases include infection of the tissues under the skin, in implanted materials and organs.
Catheter-associated UTIs are the most common HAI, and about three-fourths occur when a patient is using a urinary catheter. A urinary catheter is a tube used to connect to the bladder in order to drain urine when a patient’s bladder is not working correctly or independently. Catheters are used in 15 to 25 percent of all hospitalized patients, which is why the prevalence of this HAI is so high.
The HAIs listed above are most common in the following medical facilities:
- Acute care hospitals
- Ambulatory surgical centers
- Dialysis facilities
- Outpatient care
- Long-term care facilities
These infections associated with patient treatment are inconvenient and expensive at best, and at worst, can be fatal. It is important to understand the risks associated with exposing patients to HAIs, which are as follows:
- Significant patient illness
- Patient death
- Prolonged duration of hospital stays
- Additional diagnostic testing
- Additional therapeutic intervention
- Added costs to hospital and patient
- Poor reflection on practice
The statistics associated with HAIs are staggering, and they can help paint a clear picture of how serious these infections can be:
- one out of every 31 hospitalized patients in the USA is currently experiencing an HAI
- Implementing preventive HAI measures can save the healthcare industry $25-$31.5 billion annually
- Clostridium difficile results in 500,000 patient care issues annually
- 3% of patients hospitalized in 2005 had one or more HAI
Preventing healthcare-associated infections
Guidelines for preventing HAIs are aimed at addressing and improving measures around patient information, organization efficiency, and antibiotic and medical procedures. Following the outlined steps will improve your patient care, reduce HAIs, maintain the health of your practice, and help the healthcare industry stride toward minimal care-associated risks of infection.
Create a safety-first culture
Prioritize safety at your practice or hospital, and your employees and patients will follow suit. Putting patient safety at the top of your list makes improving hygiene, cross-checking HAI guidelines, and administering medication carefully, a natural inclination for everyone at your clinic.
Systemize environmental hygiene
Cleaning the surfaces of tables, chairs, walls, and screens is one of the most important tasks to execute every day at your practice. Create a systematized approach to ensure the highest possible environmental hygiene at your practice.
The goal of environment cleansing:
- Reduce the presence of infectious agents of surfaces
- Reduce the possibility of microorganisms transferring between people and/or objects
- Minimize the likelihood of cross-infection
Infections commonly caused by poor environmental hygiene:
- Clostridium difficile
- Staphylococcus aureus (methicillin-resistant)
- Enterococci (vancomycin-resistant)
Educate on the importance of hand hygiene
Hands carry pathogenic microorganisms that increase the likelihood of healthcare-associated infections and spread antimicrobial resistance. Practicing better hand hygiene by physicians, staff, and patients is one of the easiest ways to prevent HAIs.
Hand hygiene is particularly critical in the following time frames:
- Before touching a patient
- After touching a patient
- After touching the patient environment
- After any exposure or possible exposure to body fluids
- Before initiating cleaning protocols
Educate your staff and encourage them to educate patients on the importance of hand hygiene. Once your employees understand how dangerous poor hand hygiene can be, the more likely they are to instinctively practice good hand hygiene.
Implement HAI surveillance
Someone at your practice should keep tabs on what’s going on in the world and country with HAI. Are some infections present in your geographic area? Is there new information regarding links between patient medications and co-infections? Keeping a pulse on HAI news, developments, and specific case details in your patient demographics will help you to control the rise of these likely HAIs.
Follow HAI prevention guidelines
HAI prevention guidelines are updated annually, if not more often. Incorporate all guidelines in your hospital’s best practices, making each line an obliged task per patient interaction. Be sure to emphasize the prevention guidelines that are most resonant with the care you offer at your facility.
Practice antibiotic stewardship
Administer antibiotics patiently. Antibiotics are a quick and easy solution to many of your patient’s symptoms but check first that there is not another way to address these symptoms and heal your patient. While antibiotics ward off infection in the body, they kill the good bacteria present, making your patient an ideal target for dangerous bacteria present in the hospital or surgical area.
Cohorting and screening patients
Keeping an eye out for multidrug-resistant organisms by actively screening patients for MRSA helps reduce postoperative infections caused by multiresistant drugs. If you do find a patient with MRSA or Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), it is best to isolate the patient for the control treatment
Transcribe medical notes to prevent infection
It’s not an official guideline, but note transcription is a great start to minimizing HAIs. By transcribing your patient notes, you can effectively reduce the chance of infections in your clinic. When all patient and practice information is concisely and clearly available online, cross-checking patient information and HAI protocols is seamless.
To learn more about medical note transcription and how it can help prevent HAIs, contact us at Mercedes Transcription.