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Preventing Deadly Healthcare-Associated Infections

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

For the first time, five leading healthcare organizations have come together to publish practical science-based strategies to help prevent the six most important healthcare-associated infections (HAIs). Titled the Compendium of Strategies to Prevent Healthcare-Associated Infections in Acute Care Hospitals, the strategies were authored by the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) and the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), with input from the American Hospital Association (AHA), the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC), and The Joint Commission.

HAIs are one of the nation's most serious public health and patient safety issues. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 2 million Americans contract an infection while receiving treatment and over 90,000 Americans will die as a result of complications from an infection each year. Hospital infections cost Americans between $4.5 billion and $6.5 billion in extra healthcare costs each year.

"The goal of all of us as healthcare providers is to offer the best and safest patient care possible. Not all HAIs are preventable, but we can make use of practices that we know are effective to prevent as many of these infections as possible," said lead author of the strategies, Deborah S. Yokoe, MD, associate physician at the BWH Channing Laboratories and SHEA spokesperson. "We know that relying on the best science available will help get us to that goal."

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With the support or endorsement of an additional 21 healthcare organizations, the Compendium is expected to be a good starting point for addressing this critical public health crisis before it worsens. Infection control experts at SHEA and IDSA will assume responsibility for updating these strategies as science evolves.

"People should expect healthcare that is safe and free from additional complications, "said P.J. Brennan, MD, head of the federal Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee and President of SHEA. "This effort will benefit healthcare providers, patients and their families and, just about everyone who walks in the hospital door because the strategies announced today identify what hospitals should be doing based on the latest scientific evidence and also provide performance measures to ensure accountability."

The urgency is heightened for acute care facilities to work toward eliminating HAIs. Beginning Oct. 1, 2008, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will no longer reimburse hospitals for costs related to treating certain HAIs.

"These strategies clearly identify basic things all hospitals should be doing and how they can measure their progress through internal performance measures," said Rich Umbdenstock, CEO of AHA. "Regardless of where a hospital falls on the spectrum of controlling HAIs, this compendium offers practical advice on specific steps they can take today to improve patient safety. These strategies work in a real life setting."