Hospital acquired infections are a major problem in medical centers across the United States. Each year, a considerable and troubling percentage of patients end up suffering from infections contracted at U.S. hospitals, according to the John Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Another reality is that odds are a person will be hospitalized more than one time during the course of a lifetime, according to the Mayo Clinic. Due to this reality, everyone needs to have a basic understanding about hospital acquired infections, also known as HAI
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and prevention tracks the incidence of HAI. According to data maintained by the agency, the breakdown of the most common types of HAI during the course of a given year has both surgical site infection and pneumonia tied as the most common types of infections acquired in hospitals.
The CDC reports 157,500 cases of surgical site infections and 157,500 cases of pneumonia reported during a one-year time period. The other most common types of HAI are gastrointestinal illness, with 123,100 cases reported, and urinary tract infections at 93,300 reported cases annually.
Primary blood stream infections account for 71,900 cases of HAI annually. Another 118,500 HAI cases are reported to the CDC annually involving other types of infections.
Patients can employ some effective strategies to lower the risk of HAI. If a patient is not able to advocate for his or her self because of a medical condition, a family member or other person needs to be prepared to advocate on behalf of a patient when it comes to strategies to prevent HAI.
The first strategy that a patient, or advocate, needs to employ is education and an understanding of how infections can be passed in a hospital setting. A patient, or advocate, needs to understand that infections can be spread in two primary ways. Infections are spread via touch or airborne. With this in mind, a primary strategy that a patient needs to bear in mind is that each and every surface in a hospital can be the source of an infection.
Everything from the television tuner to bed linens to the patient bed itself. A patient must never deviate from the stark reality that any physical object in a hospital can be the source of an injection.
Airborne infections can be spread when a person coughs or sneezes. A patient in a hospital is rarely kept in isolation. Therefore, something as simple as passing a patient in a corridor who happens to sneeze or cough may be enough of an encounter to pass along an infection.
Armed with knowledge, a patient must take additional steps when it comes to preventing HAI. Of major importance is the necessity of a patient insisting that healthcare workers and hospital staff wash their hands before having any contact a patient, or anything a patient will come into contact with at any time. An ideal methodology is to request that a healthcare worker of hospital staff member wash his or her hands, or use appropriate sanitizer, in your presence. Merely taking the word of a medical center staff member that he or she has washed hands simply is not the most effective way to stave off a transfer HAI from a hospital staff person.
Some patients even take this strategy a step further. These patients make a sign when they know they will be hospitalized. The sign is hung on the patient’s bed and advises staff that they must wash their hands before interacting with the patient.
A patient must also exercise sound hygiene while hospitalized. This includes regular hand washing as well as the appropriate utilization of sanitizer.
When it comes to airborne infections, a person who knows that he or she will be hospitalized should consider bringing along a germ-filtering mask. A patient might want to consider seriously wearing this mask whenever he or she ventures from his or her patient room.
A significant number of individuals unnecessarily expose themselves to the potential for contracting an HAI. This can occur when a person accesses a clinic within a hospital setting for certain types of more primary medical services.
When a person is going to be admitted to a hospital for surgery or some other procedure or reason, there oftentimes are lead-up appointments that oftentimes occur with the medical center itself. Eliminating some of these types of appointments can lower the risk for an HAI.
An alternative to a hospital appointment or consultation is the utilization of telemedicine. In other words, certain types of appointments and consultations can take place online. Taking advantage of telemedicine is efficient, cost effective, but also lowers the risk of exposure to illness and infections that can be contracted when a person enters into a medical center. This type of “digital appointment” is becoming more commonplace with each passing year.
Catheters can be necessary for a number of reasons in a hospital. With that understood, catheters are a common conduit of HAI. The risk of an HAI from a catheter can be reduced significantly when these medical devices are routinely and regularly replaced. In addition, a patient needs to insist that a catheter should be utilized for the least amount of time necessary.
Finally, a person needs to be as proactive as possible when it comes to protecting his or her interests when hospitalized. The reality is that a person might be admitted to a hospital in a condition that prevents that individual the ability to advocate for his or her interests, including when it comes to HAI. A wise course is legally designating someone to act in your interests in the event of a hospitalization for a condition or illness that prevents an individual from advocating on his or her own behalf. This can be accomplished through the use of a legal instrument known as a durable power of attorney for healthcare.