What Is a Hospital Acquired Infection?
A hospital acquired infection is an infection that occurs in a hospital patient that is not associated with the diagnosis or health issue that they have been admitted for. For example, when a patient is admitted to the hospital for chest pains but ends up with MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), they likely have a hospital acquired infection, or HAI.
HAIs can occur at any point during a patient’s hospital stay.
Risk Factors for HAIs
There are several factors that put a patient at risk of contracting an HAI. First, the longer a patient stays in the hospital, the more likely it is that they will contract an HAI. Patients with a severe injury or a compromised immune system are also at risk. Certain problems with the hospital setting can also increase risk, including poor HVAC system filtration, patients clustered too closely together, and poor sterilization of beds and medical devices. Physicians or nurses may be responsible for spreading infections if they do not wash their hands frequently enough. The simple act of changing a catheter or administering medicine can result in an HAI if proper sterilization protocol is not followed.
Complications That Result From HAIs
Symptoms of an acquired infection may include inflammation, an elevated heart and respiratory rate, fever, and an elevated white blood cell count (leukocytosis). If an injury is promptly diagnosed and treated, the patient can make a full recovery. If not, it can escalate into sepsis. Sepsis can result in damage to one’s internal organs and possible death. 20 to 40 percent of individuals with sepsis do not survive. Sepsis is one of the leading causes of death for patients treated in an ER or ICU.
The Affordable Care Act Targets HAIs
The Obama administration has recognized and responded to the HAI epidemic. Hospitals are now required to keep more precise electronic records. The administration has also funded research to improve patient care. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare, has provided an incentive for hospitals to reduce HAIs—hospitals with high rates of avoidable complications face monetary penalties.
Recent Study Finds That Rate of HAIs Has Leveled Off
Despite the Obama administration’s initiative, the number of HAIs has remained static after several years of consistent reductions. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), recent safety measures put into place by hospitals between 2010 and 2014 reduced the number of HAIs by 17 percent. However, between 2013 and 2014, the reduction rate plateaued. Despite the overall plateau, some complications actually increased, including adverse drug reactions and childbirth-related complications. The AHRQ speculates that hospitals may be having difficulty balancing safety goals with other patient needs, such as keeping patients mobile while simultaneously minimizing fall risks.
New Jersey Medical Malpractice Lawyers at Shebell & Shebell Get Compensation For Patients Harmed By Hospital Acquired Infections
If you or someone you love has been injured because a health care provider failed to recognize or treat an HAI, we can help you recover financial compensation and hold the responsible parties accountable. Our experienced medical malpractice attorneys represent clients throughout New Jersey, including Monmouth County, Middlesex County, and Ocean County, including Howell, Freehold, Middletown, Shrewsbury, Wall, Union Beach and Neptune. For a free consultation, call us at 732-532-2011 or contact us online today.