Healthcare-associated infections, or HAIs, are among the top 10 causes of death in the United States and cost in excess of $20 billion a year. These infections are acquired by patients during the course of receiving treatment for other conditions within a health care setting, including hospitals, nursing homes, ambulatory surgical centers, and community clinics. Many of these infections are preventable with appropriate health care practices. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality reports that “Adults who develop healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) due to medical or surgical care while in the hospital have to stay an average of 19 days longer than adults who don’t develop an infection.” (cdc.gov)
The infections that account for the majority of healthcare-associated infections include:
- Blood stream infections associated with intravascular catheters
- Surgical site infections (SSIs)
- Infections associated with urinary catheters
- Pneumonia associated with mechanical ventilators
In addition, two important organisms in the area of healthcare-associated infections are Clostridioides difficile and Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Overuse and misuse of antibiotics contribute to increased rates of these types of infections and growing antibiotic resistance. Read more about antibiotic resistance and what can be done to prevent this here. Hand hygiene, which includes hand-washing and the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer, is one of the most important pieces of HAI prevention. The following links provide more information about hand hygiene:
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Hand Hygiene in Healthcare Settings cdc.gov
- Illinois Department of Public Health Hand-washing Poster dph.illinois.gov
Preventing Healthcare-Associated Infections
A National and State Priority
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued the "National Action Plan to Prevent Health Care Associated Infections: Roadmap to Elimination" in an effort to combat this growing problem. The action plan calls for a national approach to reduce the transmission of disease, development of strong partnerships between federal and local governments for prevention, and education of providers and other health care personnel in the best prevention practices to reduce these infections. The action plan also includes specific national targets for reduction of key healthcare-associated infections and a call to educate the public about these infections and how to prevent them..
In concert with the national initiative, the Illinois Department of Public Health (the Department) with funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention developed an array of HAI prevention efforts across the state of Illinois. The Department created an HAI Prevention Advisory Council with key stakeholders, hired an HAI prevention coordinator, developed a focused Illinois Action Plan to Prevent HAI & AR, and implemented a variety of education and prevention initiatives with hospitals, nursing homes, and outpatient primary care providers around infection prevention and appropriate use of antibiotics.
Illinois Action Plan to Prevent HAI & AR
Effort is underway to update the current plan.
The Illinois Department of Public Health Division of Patient Safety & Quality, in partnership with the HAI Prevention Advisory Council, developed the "Illinois Action Plan to Prevent Health Care Associated Infections and Antimicrobial Resistance".
The Plan is intended to serve as a guide to coordinate efforts in Illinois to make a major impact on prevention of HAIs across the state. It is considered a living document and one to periodically be updated in response to new developments in HAI and antibiotic resistance prevention efforts. Goals were set in four priority areas:
- Priority Area A: Infection Prevention Infrastructure, Standards, and Practices
- Goal #1: Illinois will implement a comprehensive and effective infection prevention and control system with standards, policies, and practices in place for all health care settings.
- Priority Area B: Assessment, Treatment and Outbreak
- Goal # 2: Improve detection, investigation and response to infectious outbreaks including community and healthcare-associated infections (HAI) and antimicrobial resistant organisms.
- Priority Area C: Antimicrobial Stewardship
- Goal # 3: Improve antimicrobial prescribing practices across all health care settings
- Goal # 4: Raise public awareness about antimicrobial use and misuse.
- Priority Area D: Multi-Drug Resistant Organisms
- Goal # 5: Slow the emergence of resistant bacteria and Clostridioides difficile, and prevent their transmission.