Healthcare-associated infections (HAI) are prevalent in the United States healthcare system and can be a serious problem. HAIs are any type of infection that a patient gets while in a hospital or other healthcare setting that they did not previously have when arriving at that facility. These can be passed from patient-to-patient, provider-to-patient, or be from a patient contacting an infected object.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), on any given day 1 in 31 patients in the United States will develop an HAI while at a hospital or other healthcare facility. Each year, approximately 2 million Americans will suffer from an HAI, and about 90,000 of these patients will die because of the HAI.
HAIs are a serious problem for the United States because that is an extremely high amount of people getting an infection when they go to a healthcare facility which they are going to get better not to get an infection. This problem is a direct cost to hospitals, and it costs $28-45 billion each year for United States hospitals.
In hospitals, there is one person or group of people whose job is to help with the controlling and limiting the spread of HAIs called Infection Preventionists. Beyond just controlling and limiting the spread of HAIs, Infection Preventionists are responsible for educating the other employees on better ways to limit the spread of infection and to file paperwork to report any HAIs which occur.
Some states, mostly in the Northeast United States, have a law which requires all HAIs to be reported to the state directly from the Infection Preventionists. This process requires an extensive amount of paperwork and each week increases the load of paperwork for Infection Preventionists by 4.5 hours compared to in states with no reporting laws. In the states with reporting requirements, Infection Preventionists have less time each week to spend rounding on units, monitoring patients in isolation, and education of providers and patients.
To help limit the spread of HAIs in hospitals and other healthcare settings, better hand hygiene and education on hand hygiene is needed. Providers should be washing their hands anytime before or after touching a patient, before or after touching any equipment which will contact the patient or patient surroundings, or anytime after contacting any bodily fluids. Using soap and water to wash hands is always preferred over hand sanitizer but hand sanitizer can be useful to use for a quick situation and will still help limit the spread of HAIs.