Harm Prevention

Healthcare Associated Infections Overview

Healthcare-Associated Infections (HAIs) are cited by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a critical public health problem because of the impact that HAIs have on morbidity and mortality around the world. The most common global HAIs include infections of surgical wounds, the blood stream, the urinary tract, and the lower respiratory tract.

In addition to the most common infections, diseases including severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), viral hemorrhagic fevers such as Ebola, avian influenza, and pandemic influenza have placed special focus on the ability of providers to stop the spread of outbreaks within the facility and out into the community. Adding to the complexity is the emergence of antibiotic resistance that has created "super-bugs," which are difficult to treat and manage. This is critically important for hospitals that may act as "permanent reservoirs" of resistant bacteria.

Within the United States, HAIs are estimated to impact close to 1M people per year according to a 2011 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report.

The infections break down to:

  • Pneumonia: 157,500
  • Gastrointestinal Illness: 123,100
  • Urinary Tract Infections: 93,300
  • Primary Blood Stream Infections: 71,900
  • Surgical Site Infections: 157,500
  • Other Types of Infections: 118,500

A recent CDC study found that on any given day, approximately 1 in 25 hospital patients has an HAI. Moreover, about 75,000 patients with an HAI died while in the hospital.
In 2008, the Federal Steering Committee for the Prevention of Health Care-Associated Infections was established.
This group includes individuals from the Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Labor, and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. This group developed The National Action Plan to Prevent Health Care-Associated Infections: Road Map to Elimination in 2009. This plan provides a framework and direction on how to eliminate HAIs within acute care settings, outpatient settings, and long-term care facilities. Additionally, the Partnership for Patients program was established under the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). This program is aimed at driving public-private partnerships to reduce HAIs and readmissions. Twenty-six organizations are working with more than 3,700 hospitals to meet target reduction levels over the next three years.
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