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Healthcare-Associated Infections (HAI)

What is an HAI?

Healthcare-associated infections (HAI) are infections that patients acquire while receiving treatment for medical or surgical conditions. HAIs occur in all settings of care, including acute care within hospitals and same day surgical centers, ambulatory outpatient care in healthcare clinics, and in long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes and rehabilitation facilities. The frequency of HAIs varies by location.

HAIs are associated with a variety of causes, including (but not limited to):

  • The use of medical devices, such as catheters and ventilators
  • Complications following a surgical procedure
  • Transmission between patients and healthcare workers
  • The result of antibiotic overuse

Five categories of infections account for the majority of HAIs in the acute care hospital setting:

  1. Surgical site infections
  2. Ventilator-associated pneumonia
  3. Central line-associated bloodstream infections
  4. C difficile Infections
  5. Catheter-associated urinary tract infections

Infections associated with Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and other multi-drug resistant organisms also contribute significantly to the overall problem. The frequency of HAIs varies by location.

In addition to the substantial human suffering exacted by HAIs the financial burden attributable to these infections is staggering. In a recent study, the total annual costs for the 5 major infections were $9.8 billion, with surgical site infections contributing the most to overall costs (33.7% of the total), followed by ventilator-associated pneumonia (31.6%), central line associated bloodstream infections (18.9%), C difficile infections (15.4%), and catheter-associated urinary tract infections (<1%).

The CDC healthcare-associated infection (HAI) prevalence surveyExternal Web Site Icon provides an updated national estimate of the overall problem of HAIs in U.S. hospitals. Based on a large sample of U.S. acute care hospitals, the survey found that on any given day, about 1 in 25 hospital patients has at least one healthcare-associated infection. There were an estimated 722,000 HAIs in U.S acute care hospitals in 2011. About 75,000 hospital patients with HAIs died during their hospitalizations. More than half of all HAIs occurred outside of the intensive care unit.

According to HealthyPeople.gov, HAIs are a leading cause of preventable death in the U.S.

National Get Smart About Antibiotics Campaign - click here for more information and materials.

 APIC Infection Prevention and You 2014


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