Beyond Kleenex

May 20th, 2010 by DCPatient Leave a reply »

Several months ago I wrote about the scourge of nosocomial (still my favorite word) or hospital-acquired/healthcare associated infections (HAI) as one of the most important indicators to measure and monitor in an assessment of healthcare quality. HHS testified as much to Congress last month.
See Post: A Patient’s Quest for Quality in Healthcare
After spending many days in the hospital with my father, watching him beset by multiple tubes and catherers, noting the prophylactic antibiotics in his IV and the fact that his hospital staff was diligent about washing hands, the topic seems ripe for revisiting.
See Post: From DCpatient to CTcaregiver

It seemed timely that I was sent information on an initiative sponsored by Kimberly-Clark, the Not on My Watch Hospital Acquired Infection Prevention Campaign, that aims to reduce these infections. I’m sure with Medicare no longer paying for readmissions caused by preventable infections, many hospitals are keenly interested in information on how to reduce their infection rates. Most know Kimberly-Clark as the makers of Kleenex and other home icon products. I certainly didn’t realize they had a sophisticated healthcare division. (Disclosure/Non-disclosure: I am not compensated in any way for this post)

Some important facts to note:

    In a quality report to Congress in mid-April 2010, the Health and Human Services (HHS) department noted that “very little progress on eliminating hospital-acquired infections” has been made since the problems were brought to light more than a decade ago. In addition to the potentially fatal considerations for patients, this lack of progress in preventing infections could have financial ramifications for the hospitals as the new health care overhaul law comes to fruition over the next few years.”

    The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services notes that 5-10 percent of the patients admitted to acute care hospitals and long-term care facilities in the U.S. develop hospital-acquired infections, with an annual total of more than 1 million people. These infections are usually related to a procedure used to diagnosis or treat the patient’s initial injury or illness. A CDC report published in March-April 2007 estimated the number of U.S. deaths from healthcare associated infections in 2002 at 98,987.

    The CDC has estimated that about 36 percent of these infections are preventable through strict adherence to guidelines by healthcare workers when caring for patients. These infections can be extremely dangerous because they are occurring in people whose health is already compromised. HAI often leads to lengthening hospitalization, increasing the likelihood of readmission, and adding sizably to the cost of care per patient. Financially, HAIs represent an estimated annual impact of $6.7 billion to healthcare facilities.

    Two of the most important things that patients and caregivers can do are to ask about infection reduction practices in their hospital and insist that everyone washes their hands (from doctors to visitors).

    Not on My Watch HAI Resources: http://www.haiwatch.com/

    HHS Action Plan to reduce Healthcare Associated Infections: http://www.hhs.gov/ophs/initiatives/hai/research.html

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