Hospital-acquired infections are associated with the large population of people that are admitted as patients with contagious bacterial, fungal, and viral pathogens. Patients in a hospital environment are exposed to more infectious microorganisms than those recovering at home, and sick people have compromised immune systems that make it difficult for them to effectively fight off the contagion. In hospitalized patients, a hospital-acquired infection can cause severe complications that result in extended inpatient stays, increased hospital costs, and in certain situations may cause death. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 100,000 patients die yearly from infections acquired during their inpatient hospital stay, and approximately two million patients are infected during their hospital experience.
Hospital Staff and the Spread of Germs
The greatest defense against spreading pathogens that cause disease is strict hand washing hygiene and the protection of clothing techniques by hospital staff. Physicians, nurses, orderlies, and other hospital personnel move frequently between patients and often spread the organisms on their hands, clothes, and medical instruments. Stethoscopes, blood pressure machines, and other shared equipment typically spread pathogens between patients which exposes them to infection and complications.
Resistant Strains of Bacteria are Born in the Hospital
In hospitals, certain strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria have evolved and are spread to inpatients, which may cause severe complications. Over the years, these bacteria have become unaffected by antibiotics and are no longer effectively eradicated by them. Unfortunately, those who acquire any one of these pathogens will be treated with several antibacterial or antifungal medications that may cause complications and serious side effects that impact health negatively. In recent years, these resistant bacteria have continued to evolve and have spread out of the hospital and into communities.
Failure to Sterilize Equipment and Exposure to Serious Infections
Although much of the equipment hospitals use is disposable, sterilization is still an important part of keeping patients safe and reducing the spread of pathogens. Hospital staff is trained to use steam, autoclaves, and to physically wash and scrub equipment before sterilization. Over the years, hospitals have been reported because they have not sufficiently sterilized their patient equipment, and several thousand patients have been exposed to viruses, bacteria, and fungal microorganisms. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, several hospitals in the U.S. have been reprimanded and fined due to their poor practices in equipment sterilization.
Complications of Acquired Hospital Infections
People who require care in a hospital have weakened immune systems that make it difficult for them to fight off disease. Many hospital infections are resistant to treatment and may cause pneumonia, urinary tract infections, bloodstream infections, and the infection of surgical incisions. Intravenous therapy and injection sites are a common source for bloodstream infections. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, over one-third of these hospital-acquired infections can be prevented by strict handwashing and other commonly known techniques.
Outpatient and Continuing Care Centers
Outpatient care and surgery centers, dialysis centers, and physician offices are not exempt in the spreading of the disease to patients and the community. The physician often does hospital rounds in the morning and attends office patients. Outpatient surgical centers and dialysis rely heavily on the protection of equipment sterilization and require strict hygiene techniques by staff. The safety of in and outpatients remains a serious concern by healthcare entities that are responsible for patient safety.