Monday, September 10, 2012

Health Care and Hospital Acquired Infections

Did you know that many people actually get sicker after they are admitted into the hospital? Infection is one of the most common incidents of health care problems related to being a patient in a hospital. Much of it comes from direct contact with employees who don’t wash their hands prior to touching patients.

Viruses, bacteria, and germs all affect everyone, and when medical staff hands are unclean, patients can get worse instead of better. A hospital-acquired infection is usually one that first appears three days after a patient is admitted to a hospital or other health care facility. Infections acquired in a hospital are also called nosocomial infections, according to www.FreeDictionary.com .

According to US News & World Report magazine online, in recent years, a rise in the rate of in-hospital antibiotic-resistant infections (HAIs) in the United States and abroad has focused public attention on hospital hygiene. Good hand hygiene among health care workers is widely thought to be the number one way to curtail such infection risk; plus, hospital-acquired infections account for about 100,000 deaths in the U.S. alone per year, and 80 percent of all infectious disease is transmitted by either direct contact, such as coughing, talking, sneezing, or indirect contact, such as not washing your hands after touching a bed, a telephone, or a doorknob in a patient's room. However, many health care workers don’t like the reminder about this issue from patients and feel it is demeaning to them as professionals. For more details, see this article: http://health.usnews.com/health-news/news/articles/2012/09/06/third-of-hospital-staff-say-hand-washing-reminders-unwelcome .

About 5-10% of patients admitted to hospitals in the United States develop a nosocomial infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that more than two million patients develop hospital-acquired infections in the United States each year. Hospital-acquired infections usually are related to a procedure or treatment used to diagnose or treat the patient's illness or injury. About 25% of these infections can be prevented by healthcare workers taking proper precautions when caring for patients, according to information on this topic located at the FreeDictionary.com.

Hospital-acquired infections can be caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites. These microorganisms may already be present in the patient's body or may come from the environment, contaminated hospital equipment, health care workers, or other patients. Depending on the causal agents involved, an infection may start in any part of the body. A localized infection is limited to a specific part of the body and has local symptoms. For example, if a surgical wound in the abdomen becomes infected, the area of the wound becomes red, hot, and painful. A generalized infection is one that enters the bloodstream and causes general systemic symptoms such as fever, chills, low blood pressure, or mental confusion.

Hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) may develop from surgical procedures, catheters placed in the urinary tract or blood vessels, or from material from the nose or mouth that is inhaled into the lungs. The most common types of hospital-acquired infections are urinary tract infections (UTIs), pneumonia, and surgical wound infections. More detailed material can be located at this site: http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Hospital-Acquired+Infections .

According to American Medical News online, physicians and hospitals may have another incentive to strictly follow infection-control protocols — preventing infections could lower readmission rates. Hospital patients with a positive clinical culture for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, vancomycin-resistant enterococci or Clostridium difficile are 40% likelier to be readmitted within a year than other patients, said a study in the June Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.

The cultures were ordered more than 48 hours after the patients’ initial admission, probably in response to some sign or symptom, meaning they probably acquired an infection in the hospital. About 20% of Medicare patients are readmitted within a month, costing $17.4 billion annually, according to an April 2, 2009, study in The New England Journal of Medicine. Hospitals with high readmission rates face up to a 1% cut in Medicare pay starting in October. More information can be found at this site: http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2012/05/28/prsc0528.htm .

HAIs continue to be a major health problem in the United States, according to the State of Missouri Health and Human Services Department. HAIs can be very serious, increasing the cost and length of hospital stays and even threatening lives. As a consumer, you should be proactive in your healthcare.

• Understand more about HAIs - what they are and why they occur.
• Be informed about hospital and ASC infection rates.
• Learn what you, as a patient, can do to lower your risk of an HAI.

Keep in mind that a facility's experience with HAIs is only one thing to consider when choosing a facility. The advice of your physician, the experience of facility staff, and other factors unique to your situation should be considered as well, per the MO HHS Department.

Because the rate of HAIs is still a major health care issue, patients should strongly encourage their health care providers to always wash their hands. Medical facilities, urgent care locations, and all hospitals must encourage staff to keep their hands washed, and wear gloves when necessary. Also, a system to maintain clean facilities and equipment should be mandated by each medical facility and hospital. Treating a patient for an illness or accident is important, but having an unnecessary readmission due to lack of infection oversight is not a good way to maintain patient healthcare.

Until next time.

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