The Silver Book is a very good source of information on chronic disease and medical innovation. They recently published a set of stats on the issues associated with health care-associated infections. This is always scary, as we want to think of receiving medical care as always being the solution, never creating the problem. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.
The experience of a dear friend and neighbor in the last month makes this a very personal story to my co-owner and I at Support For Home. Our friend is actually a senior nurse at Kaiser out here in Sacramento, CA (as are my co-owner and I). Our friend had surgery a few weeks back and ended up with an infection from the surgery that was extremely dangerous. After being treated for that and thinking she was on the way to recovery, evidence of another infection in internal stiches from the surgery is now being treated. It is very scary.
The data from The Silver Book makes it clear that our friend’s experience is not an outlier:
- 1 of 20 hospital patients will contract a healthcare-associated infection (HAI)
- 1.7 million hospital patients will develop an HAI
Around 2/3 of all HAIs are central-line associated bloodstream infections, catheter-associated urinary tract infections, and ventilator-associated pneumonia.
- Hospitalized elderly patients are 2.5 times more likely to develop HAIs
- 20% of 2010 drug-resistant pneumonia patients were nursing home residents
- Of the 99,000 annual deaths from HAIs:
- 35,967 are from pneumonia
- 30,665 from bloodstream infections
- 13,088 from urinary tract infections
- 8,205 from surgical site infections
- 11,062 from infections at other sites
- A 20% reduction in preventable hospital-acquired HAIs would save up to $6.8 billion in medical costs. A 70% reduction would lead to a savings of up to $31.5 billion.
The point of all this is not that health care professionals do not care, but the message from The Silver Book is very clear. The number of preventable, avoidable health care-associated infections is very large, and it absolutely must be reduced – preferably to zero.
Best wishes. Bert