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Breaking the Chain of Infections

By John R. Combes, MD
August 4, 2015

Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued Vital Signs on how the health care field can interrupt the spread of infections, especially those that are antibiotic resistant like Clostridium difficile.

In the Vital Signs, CDC recommends a community-wide approach to identify and stop these hard-to-treat infections by identifying a localized outbreak quickly and taking appropriate precautions in individual facilities across the health care continuum. CDC asserts that if these infections are caught early and by following recommended protocols for infection control and antibiotic stewardship programs, the spread of half a million antibiotic-resistant infections could be prevented over five years.

America’s hospitals are making progress against health care-associated infections (HAIs) but recognize they must partner with all parts of the health care field to eradicate these infections.  Our member hospitals working with AHA’s Health Research and Educational Trust (HRET) Hospital Engagement Network (HEN) avoided more than 92,000 hospital-acquired conditions and has saved nearly $1 billion in avoided health care costs between January 2012 and November 2014.

The most important strategies hospitals are using across the country to reduce the incidence and impact of infections include: 

  • Improving hand washing and proper use of gowns, gloves and masks to eliminate the chance of passing an infection from one patient to another.
  • Training and retraining staff on the proper donning and doffing of protective equipment as well as on proper cleaning of rooms and equipment. 
  • Reviewing the use of antibiotics to ensure they are used only when necessary to deter the development of new antibiotic resistance. AHA has been working with the CDC and others to encourage antibiotic stewardship by issuing a toolkit for hospitals, clinicians and patients, part of our Appropriate Use of Medical Resources Initiative, which looks at some of the proven effective strategies that encourage the appropriate use of antibiotics.
  • Improving health care worker vaccination rates for the flu and other infectious diseases.

The CDC’s Vital Signs report asks that hospitals augment their internal infection control activities by bolstering the work they do with public health officials and other caregivers in their communities, to understand how they share information on mutual patients to bring the best possible care to our communities and lessen the impact of HAIs.  America’s hospitals stand ready to work with the community and other caregivers to prevent the spread of infection.

Topic: Quality and Patient Safety
Tags: quality improvement, quality care, quality, patient safety, hospital-acquired conditions, care coordination

John R. Combes, MD, is an AHA Chief Medical Officer and President/COO of the Center for Healthcare Governance.

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