Hospital acquired infections: Strategies for prevention
Your hospital or clinic likely runs efficiently and adheres to strict government mandates regarding cleanliness and disinfection. You may find, however, that a number of patients are still contracting hospital acquired infections. According to the Centers for Disease Control, research published this year found that for every 25 patients at least one will contract some form of hospital-induced illness. This is a marked improvement on figures from years past, but the results still illustrate a need to tackle the problem head-on to lower infection rates even further.
What are HAIs?
Hospital acquired infections are, quite simply, infectious diseases that target patients while they are receiving hospital care. As outlined by the CDC, the infections are usually a consequence of equipment that is used to treat patients, such as a ventilator or catheter. Examples of hospital acquired infections include pneumonia and urinary tract infections. Recent research has even indicated that HPV could be spread in a hospital or clinical setting. In many cases HAIs are a consequence of MRSA, which, as Healthline reported, is a highly contagious condition caused by naturally occurring bacteria in the body. The acronym stands for Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus.
“1 in 25 patients will contract an HAI.”
Although MRSA bacteria can be found in healthy adults, it poses a problem if it begins to spread, which can occur after a severe injury or illness. It is for that reason that MRSA is commonly acquired in hospitals, given that patients may have healing wounds from surgery and so on. MRSA is spread through casual contact with patients and can even be transferred through infected surfaces. It can lead to the aforementioned HAIs, – particularly pneumonia and other infections.
Tips for prevention
As outlined above, although HAIs are perhaps impossible to eliminate entirely, there are steps that can be taken to ensure that they occur less frequently:
1. Encourage patient hygiene
Your medical staff are no doubt trained to wash their hands on a routine basis – it’s one of the most crucial common-sense measures in the fight against infection, and for your physicians, nurses and surgeons hand washing is likely second nature. It may be a different story as far as your patients are concerned, however. Many HAIs are likely the result of poor patient hygiene. This of course may not be their fault – they may be too sick to bathe or wash their hands often – but it is still a problem nonetheless. That’s why it’s important to educate patients about the importance of routine hand washing. Allina Health explained that patients should be encouraged to wash their hands with antibacterial soap and warm water after coughing sneezing, visiting the bathroom and before and after eating. They should also be instructed to wash their hands after they touch surfaces such as door handles and railings and after they shake hands with others.
2. Limit red blood cell transfusions
According to Fierce Healthcare, reporting on a study from professors at the University of Michigan, red blood cell transfusions can actually increase the risk of HAIs such as pneumonia and sepsis. The study revealed that in patients who didn’t receive such transfusions, the rates of HAIs were lowered by roughly 20 percent.
3. New technology
Fierce Healthcare reported that a number of new platforms have been developed to help in the fight against hospital superbugs. For example, there are now devices that use ultraviolet light to eliminate bacteria on surfaces in hospital rooms. The source elaborated that a handful of hospitals across the nation currently use such machines, but that they have proven to be extraordinarily effective. For example, specific strains of bacteria can be eliminated by a sizeable sizable 70 percent. Investing in such technologies, therefore, could be a worthwhile investment for your hospital or clinic.
4. Single-use tools
It is common practice across the industry to reuse medical tools after a sterilization process. There is evidence, however, as outlined in a recent study from Brigham Young University, that certain kinds of bacteria, as well as HPV, are resistant to disinfectants commonly used in a hospital setting. An effective strategy for reducing the risk of cross-contamination, therefore, is using disposable, single-use medical tools, especially items such as vaginal speculums and laryngoscopes, both of which are available at OBP Medical.