As more attention is paid to reducing the number of healthcare-associated infections (HIAs), hospitals and health systems respond with proactive programs to eliminate many obvious sources of such infections. In turn, this affects hospital laboratories, since they play a key role in every hospital’s infection control program.

The basic statistics are stunning. Hospital-acquired infections (HIAs) affect nearly 2 million Americans annually, resulting in 90,000 deaths and up to $6.5 billion in extra costs, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

That is why, last fall, five important healthcare organizations banded together for the specific purpose of publishing proven strategies that can play a role in preventing six of the most important healthcare-associated infections. “The Compendium of Strategies to Prevent Healthcare-Associated Infections in Acute Care Hospitals” was released at that time, and provides science-based steps that can reduce these six sources of infections:

  • Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
  • Clostridium difficile Infection (CDI)
  • Central line-associated bloodstream infection (CLABSI)
  • Ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP)
  • Catheter-associated urinary tract infection (CAUTI)
  • Surgical site infection (SSI)

The consortium consists of: Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA), Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), American Hospital Association (AHA), Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, Inc. (APIC), and The Joint Commission. Twenty-nine patient advocate and professional organizations have endorsed the plan.

Reducing hospital-acquired infections is a high-profile goal. The CDC updated its 1985 guidelines for infection control last year, even as the Department of Health and Human Services announced a new infection control action plan. Meanwhile, Medicare added certain HIAs to the list of non-pay “never events,” branding them medical mistakes to motivate providers to do better. Now The Joint Commission is adding HAI prevention to its National Patient Safety Goals and is providing a compendium of best practices for reducing HIAs to hospital accreditation standards.

Raising the performance bar on infection control in hospitals is good news for patients, but also increases test volume for clinical laboratories. Laboratory tests are a primary tool used to identify and track infections and to analyze resistance to antibiotics. Pathologists are also a primary source of new and updated information on appropriate antibiotics and clinical isolates for clinicians.

Pathologists and laboratory administrates have an opportunity to position their laboratory as an added value clinical service. For example, when pathologists at Washington Hospital Center in Washington, DC, collaborated with infectious disease physicians to implement a phone reporting protocol for results of a rapid molecular test for Staphylococcus aureus bloodstream infections, the results were dramatic. There was a 53% drop in deaths associated with this source of infection! (See The Dark Report, July 28, 2008.) This inspiring outcome demonstrates how clinical laboratories can contribute to impressive reductions in hospital-acquired infections.

Related Information

Guidelines for Disinfection and Sterilization in Healthcare Facilities, 2008

Nation’s Top Healthcare Organizations Announce Strategies to Prevent Deadly Healthcare-associated Infections

Compendium of Strategies to Prevent Healthcare-Associated Infections in Acute Care Hospitals

Hospital-acquired Infections

Infection Control Initiatives

The Dark Report July 28, 2008 Summary