Preventable Hospital Infections Remain a Problem in American Hospitals


Deadly bloodstream infections continue to be a problem in American hospitals despite the fact that they can be easily prevented with a commitment of resources and attention to the problem, according to a survey commissioned by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC).

The survey included 2,075 respondents who were primarily infection prevention specialists working in hospitals. Their greatest frustrations include cumbersome paper-based systems for tracking patients, lack of training for proper procedures, and failure to enforce best practice guidelines in their facilities. One in five said that their hospital administrators were not willing to spend the necessary money to prevent infections, such as catheter-related bloodstream infections or CRBSI’s.

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It is estimated that 80,000 patients each year develop CRBSI, which occur when tubes that are inserted into a vein are improperly prepared or left in longer than necessary. About 30,000 die, according to the CDC. CRBSI’s account for nearly a third of the 99,000 deaths from hospital-acquired infections each year in the US. Hospital acquired infections cost the US healthcare system more than $2 billion annually.

Seven out of the ten nurses surveyed said that training on the proper procedures for preventing infection doesn’t occur in their facilities. The most common problems are improper maintenance of the lines or ports and bad hand hygiene.


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"Bloodstream infections from catheters are nearly 100 percent preventable with clear, actionable steps," said APIC 2010 President Cathryn Murphy, RN, PhD, CIC. One such checklist includes five simple steps to drastically reduce CRBSI:

1. Wash hands with soap
2. Clean patient’s skin with an effective antiseptic
3. Put sterile drapes over the entire patient
4. Wear a sterile mask, hat, gown, and gloves
5. Put a sterile dressing over the catheter site.

"Our research shows that the cost of implementing [such programs] is about $3,000 per infection, while an infection costs between $30,000 to $36,000," said Peter Pronovost MD PhD FCCM, a professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine who led the program. "That means an average hospital saves $1 million."

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Pronovost said that infection prevention in hospitals must begin with senior administration. When hospital leaders create a culture in which preventing infections is a priority, nurses feel empowered to follow the checklist when inserting catheters, physicians are provided antiseptic soaps as part of their catheter kits, and infection control personnel have the best tools to monitor patients.