Elderly woman in hospital bed

Hospital-Acquired Infections

Angie Szumlinski Health, Studies

Hospital-Acquired Infections (HAIs) are a major hospital problem due to morbidity, mortality, an increase in hospitalization duration, and costs. Unfortunately, older age constitutes a predisposing factor to HAIs as individual susceptibility to infection increases greatly for those with serious concomitant pathologies. HAIs occurred in four main localizations and represent the majority of all infections:

  • Respiratory
  • Urinary tract (UTI)
  • Surgical wounds
  • Systemic infections

Antibiotic resistance represents a major concern with regard to HAIs. In addition to bacteria and fungi, viruses are also a cause of HAIs. Hospital virus infections can be transmitted through the respiratory route, hand–mouth contact, and fecal–oral contact route.

According to estimates, a part of HAIs can be preventable if measures of prevention such as specific healthcare practices, adequate professional behavior, and correct organizational structure are adopted as well as strict compliance with guidelines of prevention. However, a part of HAIs would still remain unpreventable due to external factors (relating to the patient or medical treatment itself). Infectious complications related to medical care will have an impact on economic costs; therefore, HAIs represent an important factor of increased healthcare costs due to multiple aspects:

  • Delay in hospital discharges with an increase in hospitalization costs
  • Increase in treatment costs
  • Increase in the number of diagnostic and laboratory investigations
  • Medico-Legal disputes

According to a United States analysis, hospital costs related to HAIs are very high. Another study revealed that hospital costs for each HAI had increased by about 12,000 US dollars. Hospital-acquired COVID-19 represents a serious public health problem and the first articles indicate there was an alarming rate of HAIs. It is a problem that could cause reluctance of patients to seek hospital care for fear of becoming infected. Scientific studies have proven that in-hospital transmission of COVID-19 is not negligible. According to several reports, the hospital-acquired SARS-CoV-2 infection rate is 12–15%. Patients admitted to hospitals must give undivided attention to individual protection measures. Healthcare personnel must do all that is possible to address the problem and prevent further spreading, through rigorous compliance with procedures for containing the infection.

Word of caution: please follow your facility policies regarding new admissions both from the community and acute care. Infections grow everywhere; wash your hands, isolate new admissions on observation units, be aware of subtle changes in each resident, and educate staff on the importance of proper infection control practices.

Stay the course, stay well, mask up, get vaccinated, and stay tuned!