Healthcare-associated infections, or HAIs, are infections acquired while receiving treatment for another condition in a healthcare setting. (HHS.gov [n.d.]). They include almost every malady that is not part of the admitting diagnosis. (Wilcox J. 2012) Although they are sometimes referred to as hospital-acquired infections, they can be contracted anywhere healthcare is delivered, including inpatient settings, outpatient settings, and nursing homes or rehab centers. HAIs may be caused by any infectious agent, including bacteria, fungi, and viruses. (HHS.gov [n.d.]).
Risk factors for HAI include
- Use of bloodstream, endotracheal, and urinary catheters
- Surgical procedures
- Contamination of the healthcare environment
- Transmission of communicable diseases between patients and healthcare workers
- Overuse or improper use of antibiotics (HHS.gov [n.d.]).
HAIs are rife. At any given time, about 1 in 20 inpatients has an infection related to hospital care. These infections cost the US healthcare system billions of dollars each year. (HHS.gov [n.d.]). According to one 2010 study, the average length of stay for someone with an HAI is more than 19 days longer than that of someone without an HAI. On average, each HAI-afflicted patient in a hospital costs $43,000 more than a patient free of HAIs. In 2007, HAI cost 99,000 lives, the majority of them from pneumonia and bloodstream infections. (–. The Silver Book (n.d.))
The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has identified the reduction of HAIs as an Agency Priority Goal. In time, HHS believes that HAIs can be eliminated entirely. (HHS.gov [n.d.]).
HHS.gov (n.d.). Health Care Associated Infections. Retrieved from http://www.hhs.gov/ash/initiatives/hai/
(n.d.). The Silver Book: Healthcare-Associated Infections. Retrieved from http://www.silverbook.org/uploads/images/SilverBookHAI_FactSheet.pdf
Wilcox, J. (ed.), 2012. Hospital-Acquired Infections.