Healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) are a severe health concern for people of all ages who receive medical attention for any reason. If you’re unsure what HAIs mean for you or your loved ones when receiving medical treatment, you’re not alone. The following will explore the concept of HAIs. Preventative measures will also be discussed.
As with any and all medically-related advice found online, always be sure to speak to a medical professional regarding your particular situation. When it comes to medical treatment and procedures, there is no such thing as one-size-fits-all.
What are HAIs?
Healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) are infections that people get while they are being given healthcare for another medical condition or situation. The prevention and reduction of HAIs have been listed by the US Department of Health and Human Services as one of their top priorities.
Where you can get HAIs
Healthcare-associated infections can happen anywhere medical treatment is given. This could include but is not limited to, hospitals, ambulances, and long-term care facilities. Since bacteria, fungi, viruses, and pathogens can exist anywhere, this means HAIs can happen anywhere.
In particular, certain patient characteristics like age or underlying diseases or conditions that compromise the immune system result in a higher risk of contracting healthcare-associated infections. Moreover, the overuse of antibiotics in medical treatments has been suggested to contribute to the problem. It results in antibiotic-resistant organisms that can cause HAIs and are difficult to treat.
Are HAIs serious?
Healthcare-associated infections are extremely serious. They can result in illness, pain, and even death. Beyond medical repercussions, there are also emotional and financial consequences of HAI. Studies have shown that there are roughly one in 25 American in patients with an infection related to the care they received in the hospital at any given time. This results in tens of thousands of deaths and costs the healthcare system billions of dollars each year.
How to prevent the transmission
The CDC has provided tools and guidelines for monitoring, investigating, and researching HAIs and preventing the occurrence of them. In addition to this work, many products have become available on the market for those who manage healthcare facilities or are particularly focused on HAIs. In particular, ultraviolet light – which has been proven to disinfect – is being utilised to prevent the transmission of HAIs. Tools and devices are being developed all the time to help medical professionals deal with this critical issue.
Manage higher-risk patients
One of the big things medical professionals can do to help limit the spread of HAIs is to reduce the risks some patients have for HAIs. If conditions like diabetes, anaemia, malnutrition, and tobacco use are managed optimally, patients’ risk for HAIs can be lowered. Of course, not all risks can be managed this way.
Reduce iatrogenic risk factors
Some procedures and methods increase the risk of HAIs among patients. This includes things like the use of urinary catheters and the location chosen for a central line (femoral vein placement is associated with higher chances of HAIs, whereas the subclavian vein placement is associated with lower risk). Medical professionals can reduce patient exposure to the elements associated with higher risk when possible and consider the use of antibiotics where risk is high and unavoidable.
Follow systematic steps to reduce broader risks
Following a prescribed checklist, like Dr Pronovost’s checklist for reducing CLABSI, can help ensure that the necessary steps are followed in the right order to minimise the transmission of HAIs. The process of vertical transmission can spread infections through an environment. This usually occurs when a patient has an infection in one room, leaves the room, and the next patient who uses the space catches the infection. Procedures that involve thorough cleaning and disinfection of rooms between patients can be quite useful in reducing risk.
The process of horizontal transmission can also spread infections. This occurs when infections are spread out across adjoining rooms between patients who are receiving care at the same time. Most often, healthcare providers are the ones who bring the infection from one patient to the other in these scenarios, typically by carrying the infection on their hands. Systems for maintaining proper hand hygiene can also help the reduction.
The above information should have given you a broad understanding of healthcare-associated infections. It is important to note that the above information was gathered to serve as a general overview of HAIs and their transmission. Depending on the particular virus, bacteria, fungi, or pathogen, additional steps can be taken. Likewise, a patient’s specific circumstances will also open up additional options for prevention.
Tommy Williamson did his degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. He has an ongoing interest in mental health and well-being.