California initiative seeks to reduce hospital-acquired infections

Every year in the U.S., hospital-acquired infections are factors in the deaths of nearly 100,000 Americans. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that approximately 1.7 million Americans acquire an infection of some sort in the hospital. To put it in persective, 1 in 20 patients in the hospital will pick up an infection. This is a huge problem across the nation as many of the infections are antibiotic resistant.

A recent article in the Los Angeles Times reports on a California-initiative to bring down the number of hospital-acquired infections to save lives and to save money. It is estimated that hospital-acquired infections adds $600 million to California health care costs each year.

Many, if not most, hospital-acquired infections can be prevented because they are transmitted when doctors, nurses and other hospital staff do not practice correct hygiene and transmit disease from patient-to-patient. Common hospital infections include ventilator-associated pneumonia; staphylococcus aureus; tuberculosis; urinary tract infection; hospital-acquired pneumonia; Methicillin-resisten Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA); and Vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE) are some of the most common infections.

Fighting infection can sometimes be pretty low tech such as frequent hand washing. Medical personnel should wash their hands between patient contacts and after contacts with items contaminated with blood, bodily fluids or equipment. Though hand washing may seem simple, it must be done correctly.

Requiring hospital personnel to be to be vaccinated for common diseases such as hepatitis B, influenza and chicken pox is another fairly straight-forward solution.

Another low-tech infection prevention device is the tooth brush. Making sure that ill patients get their teeth brushed can go a along way to preventing pneumonia as bacteria can build up in a patient’s mouth. The Times article said that with a routine of teeth brushing and hydrogen peroxide swabbing of ventilator patient’s mouths, the rate of ventilator infections went down from 18 to 0 in a one-year period in one hospital.

Sterilization also plays a key role in infection prevention. Equipment and items that patients and medical staff come into contact with can prevent transmission. Sterilization can be done with chemicals, dry heat, steam under pressure or radiation.

One preventative measure that many patients can take is check the infection rate of the hospital where an elective surgery will take place. The Washington State Department of Health provides a website with information about the state’s Healthcare Associated Infections Program. This information provides patients with data to make healthcare decisions.

This information is provided by Washington Injury Attorney blog, a service of The Farber Law Group. We are a personal injury law firm with offices in Seattle and Bellevue and we represent victims of medical malpractice and their family.

Source: Hospital-related infections drop under California initiative, Los Angeles Times, August 23, 2011
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