Healthcare-Associated Infection Statistics

Healthcare-associated infections are preventable yet still rank as one of the top ten causes of death in the U.S. Let’s discuss HAIs, how they spread, and what we can do about them.

What is a healthcare-associated infection?

A healthcare-associated infection (HAI) is an infection a patient gets while receiving medical treatment in a healthcare facility. They are also called hospital-acquired infections or nosocomial infections. Bacteria, fungi, viruses, and other pathogens can cause HAIs.

How do healthcare-associated infections spread?

Contaminated surfaces, insufficient handwashing and PPE, indwelling medical device use (such as central lines, catheters, and ventilators), and lack of protection from airborne pathogens are significant factors in the spread of HAIs.

Which surfaces spread healthcare-associated infections?

All surfaces can harbor microbes. This includes environmental surfaces (flooring, countertops, handles, sinks, etc.), patient care items and medical devices (gurneys, monitors, IV pumps), and porous, soft surfaces (pillows, curtains, scrubs).

10 alarming statistics on healthcare-associated infections

healthcare associated infection statistics

How many people get HAIs?

Approximately 1 out of 25 patients who seek treatment at a healthcare facility will acquire an infection unrelated to the issue for which they sought help. [i]

Many patients who survive an HAI live altered lives that include long-term medical care and treatment. Some healthcare-associated infections are shown to increase the hospital readmission rate within 30 days of discharge by 60%. [ii]

Every 5 minutes, a patient dies from a healthcare-associated infection in the U.S.

Healthcare-associated infections are among the top 10 leading causes of death in the U.S. [iv]

How many deaths are caused by HAIs?

The numbers are staggering – 1.7 million patients will acquire at least one of these infections, and 99,000 will die annually. [iii] This is the equivalent of a 275-person passenger jet crashing to the ground every day.

The World Health Organization (WHO) expects antibiotic-resistant infections to be the leading cause of death by 2050. [v]

How many deaths are caused by HAIs?

The numbers are staggering – 1.7 million patients will acquire at least one of these infections, and 99,000 will die annually. [iii] This is the equivalent of a 275-person passenger jet crashing to the ground every day.

The World Health Organization (WHO) expects antibiotic-resistant infections to be the leading cause of death by 2050. [v]

Healthcare-associated infections are among the top 10 leading causes of death in the U.S. [iv]

How are HAIs spread?

When patients, visitors, or healthcare workers touch contaminated surfaces, they can transmit the microbes to another person or themselves. In the healthcare environment, many assume surfaces that look clean are safe, yet this is not always the case.

An estimated 20-40% of healthcare-associated infections have been attributed to cross-infection via the hands of healthcare personnel who have become contaminated from direct contact with patients or by touching contaminated healthcare surfaces. [vi]

Healthcare-associated infections cost the U.S. healthcare system $28-33 billion each year. [vii]

The high price of HAIs in healthcare

The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 states that healthcare-associated conditions that “could reasonably have been prevented through the application of evidence-based guidelines” are not covered by Medicare. Hospitals and insurance companies hold sole responsibility. [viii]

As part of the Hospital-Acquired Condition Reduction Program (HACRP), the 25% of hospitals with the highest HAI rates have been penalized with a 1% Medicare payment reduction. [ix] As of February 2021, 774 hospitals have incurred penalties. [x]

Look up infection rates for hospitals at https://www.medicare.gov/care-compare/.

How do surfaces spread healthcare-associated infections?

surface selection to prevent healthcare associated infections

Poor choices in surface selection

The problem starts at the beginning – when the healthcare environment is built. Choosing the wrong surface materials for a healthcare facility’s design allows HAIs to spread.
proper cleaning and disinfection to prevent healthcare associated infections

Cleaning and disinfection issues

There are many different types of surface materials and textiles within the healthcare setting, and not all of them can be cleaned and disinfected the same way. Infectious microbes will proliferate on improperly cleaned or damaged environmental surfaces and equipment used for patient care.

standards and certifications to prevent healthcare associated infections

Lack of regulation and standards

There are no requirements for surface material or product manufacturers to test and validate that their surfaces can be cleaned and disinfected using EPA-registered hospital-grade disinfectants without causing damage to the surfaces. This confusion impairs a healthcare facility’s ability to reduce HAIs caused by surface contamination.

Save the surfaces: Let’s address surface contamination to reduce healthcare-associated infections.

One of the primary ways microbes move within a healthcare setting is via surfaces, yet most infection prevention strategies overlook surface safety issues beyond cleaning. The Healthcare Surfaces Institute is the only organization focused on reducing preventable healthcare-associated infections by spreading awareness, education, testing, and research on the issue of surface-related infections.

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Healthcare Surfaces Institute is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization; all donations are tax-deductible. Copyright © 2022 Healthcare Surfaces Institute. All rights reserved.

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