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HealthJune 24, 2015

5 HAI facts that challenge infection preventionists

According to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, 1 out of every 25 patients will develop at least one HAI while hospitalized.

Many medical professionals believe that they already do everything necessary to keep healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) to a minimum. If your colleagues question the need for an infection prevention program, you may want to share with them these five facts about healthcare-associated infection rates in U.S. hospitals and how dramatically robust infection prevention programs can reduce them.

1. HAIs affect hundreds of thousands of patients and have a more than 10% mortality rate.

According to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, 1 out of every 25 patients developed at least one HAI while hospitalized in 2011. Nationally, that comes to more than 721,000 HAIs each year--and 75,000 mortalities.

2. Two of the most common HAIs cost hospitals more than $40,000 per case, on average.

Central line-associated bloodstream infections have an average cost of $45,814, while ventilator-associated pneumonia averages $40,144 per instance. Because Medicare and many other payers no longer reimburse for many healthcare-associated infections, hospitals must bear the costs, leading to significant erosion of the bottom line in facilities with inadequate infection prevention programs.

3. More than half of HAIs occur independent of devices or surgeries.

Infection reporting and programs have focused on device-related and surgical site infections, but these efforts fail to address the causes of 52.6% of all HAIs. Infection prevention programs need to look at larger issues and implement initiatives to reduce all HAIs.

4. Clostridium difficile causes more HAIs than any other pathogen.

The bacteria C. difficile causes at least 250,000 HAIs and 14,000 deaths each year. While not yet significantly resistant to antibiotics, treatment with antimicrobials significantly increases the risk of developing a C. difficile infection. As of 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) consider C. difficile an urgent threatC. difficile already poses a significant financial threat to hospitals as this common infection averages $11,285 in largely unreimbursed costs.

5. Infection prevention programs can help.

At the hospital, regional and national level, infection prevention and control programs have reduced HAI rates from 1.7 million cases with 99,000 mortalities in 2002 to the markedly lower numbers reported in 2011. Individual hospitals that have created high-performing infection prevention programs report reductions in HAIs of up to 68%. Evidence indicates that rates have continued to drop, but much work remains.

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