Healthcare-Associated Infections Q&A
Healthcare-associated infections (HAIs)—previously referred to as hospital-acquired infections until, understandably, hospitals rejected the label—are a major concern for healthcare facilities worldwide. And unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic brought the progress that had been made in reducing them in recent years to a screeching halt.
Types of Healthcare-Associated Infections
According to the 2020 National and State HAI Progress Report, the step backward in the fight against HAIs in acute care hospitals includes increases in almost every area of HAIs:
- 35% increase in the standardized infection ratio (SIR) for ventilator-associated events (VAE)
- 24% increase in central line-associated bloodstream infections
- 15% increase in hospital-onset methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
The 2020 report also showed a 20% increase in MRSA bacteremia in long-term acute care hospitals.
To translate the impact of these percentages, the CDC estimates that 5 percent of all hospital admissions result in at least one HAI, adding up to approximately 722,000 infections and 75,000 deaths annually. The CDC also estimates the cost of HAIs to range between $28 and $33 billion a year!
No wonder healthcare providers are desperately trying to bring these numbers down as patients, and their families become increasingly hesitant to be admitted into hospitals or visit other healthcare facilities. These figures also explain why reducing HAIs should be a significant focus for environmental services (EVS) for hospitals and other healthcare EVS providers. Yet to help reduce the number of HAIs, healthcare workers must understand what they are, how they are spread, and their role in curbing the spread of HAIs. With this in mind, below are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions surrounding HAIs.
What is a healthcare-associated infection?
HAIs—also called nosocomial infections—are defined as infections a patient did not have when entering the healthcare facility but developed while in the facility or within 90 days after.
Can EVS for hospitals prevent all HAIs?
Most EVS teams have little to no chance of impacting catheter urinary tract, blood line, and surgical site HAIs since most do not have contact with medical equipment.
How are HAIs transferred in hospitals?
In healthcare settings, HAIs most often originate when microbes, including potentially dangerous pathogens, are spread by people touching contaminated surfaces. Contaminated surfaces, such as bed rails, remotes, call buttons, and tray tables, as well as reusable patient care equipment, such as wheelchairs and walkers, can transmit these pathogens to subsequent room occupants. HAIs can also be transmitted to patients and staff by contaminated hands and clothing of hospital staff and visitors.
What are common hospital infections?
EVS can play a major role in helping reduce HAIs that are transmitted from contact with contaminated surfaces. Among the most common HAIs in hospitals that come from surface/human contact are MRSA, E. coli, C. diff, norovirus, and the flu.
What is the best defense against surface HAIs?
Hands down, handwashing is the best defense against HAIs for everyone in a healthcare setting. According to experts, up to 80 percent of all germs that cause illness are transferred by hands. Arguably, the second is hand drying since hands spread 1,000 times more germs when wet than when they are dry and wet hands quickly attract pathogens. Because EVS hospital workers should be wearing gloves at all times, they should change gloves between each patient room and at other times when they are likely to have been exposed to pathogens. EVS should properly remove and dispose of gloves and other PPE and wash hands before donning a new pair.
How Can EVS for hospital workers help reduce the spread of HAI-producing pathogens?
There is a reason EVS for hospital technicians are referred to as the frontline in hospital infection control. They clean and disinfect all surfaces in a hospital—in lobbies and corridors as well as patient and surgery rooms.
What do hospital EVS technicians need to know to help prevent HAIs?
Below are a few of the things EVS technicians need to consider to combat HAIs:
- Some hospital surfaces and areas require constant cleaning and disinfecting, such as high-touch points and patient rooms before a new occupant is admitted. Other less used spaces, such as storage or infrequently used waiting areas, may require infrequent disinfecting or only need disinfecting during an outbreak. It is up to EVS technicians to know what processes and procedures are needed where.
- There are so many different types of pathogens, and disinfectants are EPA-registered to confirm they kill only the pathogens listed on the product’s label. This requires EVS team members to know which pathogen they are targeting and to follow the label.
- Disinfectants can’t do their job if cleaning is not done first since dirt and debris can shield pathogens from the formula. EVS technicians need to clean surfaces thoroughly before disinfecting.
- Disinfectants do not work if they are not left on the surface for the necessary “dwell” time (the time the surface must remain wet with the disinfectant to allow it to do its job). With pressure on EVS hospital technicians to increase bed turnover rates by cleaning rooms as quickly as possible, the technicians must remain firm in allowing the disinfectant the time it needs to work.
Are You Looking to Join the Fight Against Healthcare-Associated Infections?
Are you looking for a career where you can make a difference in preventing healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) in LA County, Orange County, Ventura County, Antelope Valley, San Bernardino, and other areas of Southern California? Read what these employees say about working at Servicon and learn more about careers with Servicon.
Is your EVS hospital provider skilled in preventing healthcare-associated infections (HAIs)? Find out more about Servicon’s Patients First program or call us at 310-204-5040.
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We help produce higher HCAHPS scores, lower HAIs, and faster throughput, which translates into more budget dollars to spend on your business of saving lives.
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