HHS updates infection-prevention action plan

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services released an updated action plan to combat infections acquired during the course of receiving healthcare services.

The plan, known as the "National Action Plan to Prevent Health Care-Associated Infections: Road Map to Elimination," aims to stem the rate of infections acquired inside hospitals, outpatient settings and nursing homes. More than 1 million such infections occur each year, and cost as much as $33 billion to treat.

Beginning in 2015, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will dock hospital payments by 1 percent if a patient acquires a condition while under their care.

The plan will encourage greater hand washing among clinicians, reducing the inappropriate or unnecessary use of medical devices, and enhancing an overall culture of safety inside patient settings. It also will promote the use of electronic health records and better interoperability among agencies governed by HHS to improve the agency's ability to track and analyze infection data.

Non-governmental providers have asked for better funding to improve detection of healthcare-acquired infections, particularly in interfacing with the system operated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, FierceHealthIT previously reported.

Under the new plan, hospitals would be bound by tighter regulations regarding infection control. All hospital infection control programs would not only have to adhere to national standards, but also be a key part of each institution's quality assessment and performance improvement programs.

Ambulatory surgical centers, dialysis centers and skilled nursing facilities also would have to meet stricter infection control standards.

Moreover, the plan calls for 75 percent of all healthcare workers to receive flu vaccinations by 2015, and 90 percent at a yet to be determined future date.

To learn more:
- read the report