Preventing Hospital-Acquired Infections
Hospital room

A hospital-acquired infection is a potentially deadly medical error.  They largely are preventable, and one hospital recently provided a blueprint for preventing one of the most serious hospital-acquired infections.

These occur when bacteria enter a patient’s body during a hospital stay.  They typically are caused by germs spread by medical staff or unclean medical devices.

One very serious hospital-acquired infection is caused by a bacterium known as Clostridioides difficile (C. diff).  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that almost 500,000 patients suffer a C. diff infection every year in this country.

C.diff infections may lead to sepsis, which can be life-threatening. According to the CDC, nearly 10% of patients over the age of 65 diagnosed with a hospital-acquired C.diff infection die within one month.

A hospital in Atlanta, Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital, focused its efforts on reducing C.diff hospital-acquired infections and announced it had reduced them by 63% in just two years.

So how did the hospital prevent so many hospital-acquired C.diff infections?

Test Patients Early and Often for Hospital-Acquired Infections

According to the hospital, early testing is a key step.  The Atlanta hospital increased its testing of patients for the first three days following admission. About half of the patients normally were tested within three days of admission.  Five years later, in 2019, over 80% of hospital patients were tested this early.

The hospital empowered nurses to order C.diff tests early on without a doctor’s permission. The earlier the infection is diagnosed the better the chances for effective treatment.

Proper hand-washing and cleaning of medical devices and equipment are known ways to prevent hospital-acquired infections.  A study released in May 2022 concluded that even dirty hospital beds can lead to serious hospital-acquired C. diff infections. (“Impact of Exposure to Potentially Contaminated Hospital Beds on Risk of Hospital-onset C. difficile Infection”)

More effective patient room cleaning also was a focus of the hospital’s infection prevention strategy. The hospital strengthened its efforts, switching and enhancing the disinfectants it used.

Hospital Culture of Safety

Hospital leadership instilled special hospital-wide educational efforts on protocols that prevent C.diff infections. These efforts helped establish an effective culture of safety regarding hospital-acquired infections.

Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital showed that focused efforts can dramatically reduce hospital-acquired infections. Even more medical errors that seriously harm or kill patients can be avoided with the right steps in place and a commitment to adhere to them.

If you suspect a family member was the victim of a preventable medical error, speak with an attorney experienced in conducting medical malpractice investigations.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.

Authored by Gray Ritter Graham, posted in Blog June 28, 2022


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