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An Everyday Threat: Healthcare-Associated Infections

Whether it’s due to lack of awareness or poor implementation of best practices, many healthcare settings adhere poorly to simple, effective infection prevention strategies. But it’s an issue that cannot be ignored. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) counts healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) as a serious threat to patient safety. In response to this issue, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) established a committee to tackle the problem and developed the HHS Action Plan to Prevent Healthcare-Associated Infections

Clearly, HAIs are a priority for the top health organizations in the country, and they should be for your organization, too. 

The Threat of HAIs

Healthy People 2020, a program associated with the HHS, notes that HAIs, “...are a significant source of complications across the continuum of care and can be transmitted between different healthcare facilities.” This occurs is despite these infections being largely preventable through proper procedures. 

The numbers related to HAIs are staggering and should represent an impetus for change. Research by the CDC estimates that on any given day, one in 31 hospital patients has at least one HAI. Further research by the CDC estimates that around 26,000 E. Coli (ESBL) infections and more than 9,000 E. Cloacae (CRE) infections occur annually. 

According to a study on HAIs, it’s estimated that 90,000 patients die annually because of them. Of those deaths, the CDC estimates 600 are the result of CRE infections, and in one year alone 11,285 deaths were attributed to severe MRSA infections. 

Not only is there an enormous human cost to unchecked HAIs, there are extreme economic costs to hospitals and patients. For instance, ESBL infections result in more than $40,000 of excess hospital charges per occurrence. Meanwhile, HAIs as a whole are estimated to cost hospitals between $28 billion and $45 billion annually.

Fortunately, there are realistic ways healthcare professionals can work toward reducing this risk and keeping their patients healthy. 

Preventing HAIs

The CDC and Healthy People 2020 believe that steps can be taken to reduce these HAIs. Recent research suggests increasing compliance for existing prevention practices could reduce certain HAIs by up to 70 percent. 

Based on modeling data, the CDC also believes there can be significant reductions in HAIs, such as MRSA, through regional coordination efforts between healthcare facilities. It’s estimated that the financial benefit could conservatively save the country’s healthcare system $5.7 to $6.8 billion. More aggressive estimates show savings of $25 to $31.5 billion. 

Here are three key ways this can be achieved. 

Hand Hygiene

One of the most basic ways to fight infection is proper hand hygiene. Poor hand hygiene is responsible for up to 40 percent of HAIs. Conforming with hand washing guidelines can serve to reduce these infections. 

To support proper hand hygiene, healthcare facilities can provide accessible hand washing stations and promote the use and accessibility of alcohol gel hand sanitizer. The gel dries quickly and is bactericidal, fungicidal and virucidal—aiding infection prevention. 

It’s also worth reminding healthcare professionals that the most poorly washed areas are the backs of hands, fingertips, and thumbs. 

Antibiotic Stewardship

A crucial area of infection prevention is stalling antibiotic resistance through antibiotic control programs and stewardship. This involves limiting the use of inappropriate agents and selecting the appropriate antibiotic, dosage, and duration of therapy. 

By focusing on these actions and being deliberate about the use of antibiotics, healthcare facilities can help limit the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. 

With proper education on the risks HAIs pose and a focus on key best practices, healthcare professionals can create a safer environment for their patients. 

Improved Medical Devices

Adopting the use of new medical devices that are designed to help prevent infection is another effective way to control HAIs. Between trying to change human behavior (i.e. following best practices) and using devices that better prevent infection, the latter will be more successful because it takes less thought and effort on the part of healthcare professionals. 

Non-invasive monitoring devices and less invasive surgical techniques help avoid the higher risk of infection associated with bypassing the body’s main defense barriers, such as the skin and mucous membranes. 

Additionally, antimicrobial stim electrodes such as MicroBlock help fight against an often overlooked area of infection prevention. Around 25 percent of reusable electrodes still retain bacteria after cleaning, according to a research from the American Journal of Infection Control. Seven out of eight types of the bacteria identified were infection risks. 

When these electrodes are reused during repeat visits, it increases the chances of exposure to bacteria. Not only that, bacteria also has the chance to spread during storage. Electrodes are typically kept in a patient’s file or in a cabinet with other patients’ electrodes. Either environment is often dark and stuffy—a perfect place for bacteria to grow. If one electrode contains harmful bacteria, it can quickly spread in storage, increasing the risk of an outbreak. 

However, a product like MicroBlock antimicrobial electrodes can stop bacteria before it ever has a chance to spread. They kill bacteria at the point of contact where it would normally spread, negating the need to develop and implement new infection prevention processes. 

MicroBlock antimicrobial electrodes are proven to be more than 99 percent effective in reducing several forms of harmful bacteria: E. Cloacae (CRE), S. Aureus (MRSA), E. Coli (ESBL),  E. Faecalis (VRE), P. Aeruginosa and A. Baumannii (Multidrug Resistant). Its antimicrobial gel demonstrates a greater than 4 log10 reduction against each of these microorganisms, which is the standard measure for effective antimicrobial products.

Using MicroBlock in place of standard self-adhesive stim electrodes is a simple switch that can substantially improve your infection program.

If you would like to know more about the MicroBlock or would like a free sample of this innovative product, please contact us on our website.