1 in 25 patients acquire hospital infections

About one in 25 hospital patients acquired an infection during their stay in 2011, according to a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

In 2011, patients acquired more than 720,000 infections in hospitals. About 75,000 of those infected died, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pneumonia and surgical site infections, which each accounted for about 22 percent of all infections, were the most common infection types, followed by gastrointestinal infections at about 17 percent. Hospitals reported Clostridium difficile occurred most often, which caused about 12 percent of healthcare-associated infections, according to the study.

However, hospitals made progress in preventing infections, according to the CDC report, including:

  • A 20 percent decline in infections from the 10 surgical procedures tracked between 2008 and 2012

  • 44 percent fewer central-line associated bloodstream infections between 2008 and 2012

  • 4 percent fewer hospital-onset MRSA bloodstream infections between 2011 and 2012

  • 2 percent fewer hospital-onset C. difficile infections between 2011 and 2012

  • 3 percent fewer catheter-associated urinary tract infections between 2009 and 2012.

"Although there has been some progress, today and every day, more than 200 Americans with healthcare-associated infections will die during their hospital stay," CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., said in a statement. "The most advanced medical care won't work if clinicians don't prevent infections through basic things, such as regular hand hygiene. Healthcare workers want the best for their patients; following standard infection control practices every time will help ensure their patients' safety."

Despite success at the national level, "there still are pockets of hospitals that have rates of infection that are several times the national average," Peter Pronovost, director of the Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality at Johns Hopkins, told CNN. The reality is that oftentimes there's very little that's being done about it," he said. "There's no accountability for a hospital that has very high infection rates, and my sense is, there absolutely needs to be."

A January evaluation found a national initiative meant to reduce hospital-acquired infections is effective, but more work remains, such as improving resource flow for prevention, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- read the study abstract
- read the CDC report
- read the CDC statement
- read the CNN article

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