Spread of HAIs rapidly becomes $45B national crisis

Hospital-acquired infections are spreading at an alarming rate, with 1.7 million Americans developing them each year at a cost of up to $45 billion, according to the Alliance for Aging Research.

The deadly and costly infections are becoming a national crisis, medical experts said during a call-in event Monday announcing the Alliance's release of a new fact sheet about the growing problem. An estimated 99,000 people die from these infections each year and the numbers are expected to grow as the rate of infection rises and more Americans develop resistance to antibiotics.

The cost of these infections or HAIs to U.S. hospitals alone is estimated at $28.4 billion to $45 billion annually, according to the Alliance. 

"This is an issue that is especially critical for older adults who often have compromised immune systems, pay more visits to hospitals and doctor's offices, and suffer from comorbidities that complicate outcomes," said Lindsay Clarke, J.D., vice president of health programs at the Alliance, in the announcement. "We simply cannot afford to continue on our current path of mounting infections and resistance."

Nearly 45 percent of these infections occur in patients older than 65, Thomas File, M.D, president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, said in a MedPage Today article. "When infections do occur in the older population, the burden of illness is high and often the outcome is less favorable," File said.

The rate of infection in the elderly is a growing concern because 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 every day, according to MedPage Today. The medical experts on the call urged the healthcare industry to conduct more research to understand these HAIs outside the intensive care units and on cancer patients and the elderly, the article said.

In addition, experts worry about the rise in antibiotic resistance. Approximately 70 percent of hospital-acquired infections are resistant to at least one antimicrobial drug, according to the fact sheet.

The most common types of HAIs are bloodstream infections related to central lines, catheter-associated urinary tract infections, ventilator-associated pneumonia, and surgical site infections, Medpage Today reported.

To learn more:
- here is the Alliance announcement and fact sheet (.pdf)
- read the MedPage Today article