What can I do to minimize my risk of acquiring an infection or other illness while I am in the hospital?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) affect nearly 720,000 people a year, killing more than 8% of those who are infected. Recent estimates suggest that 1 in 25 hospital patients will contract an infection or other condition as a result of being in that hospital. Keep in mind that 1 in 25 is an average of all hospitals, but the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have recently penalized 721 hospitals for drastically exceeding that average. One of the hospitals reprimanded: Inova Fairfax.

Although the hospital has paid a fine and is required to improve its conditions, the likelihood of the hospital becoming completely HAI-free is low. This is why it is important to know what you can do, and what you can insist your caregiver does, in order to protect yourself from infections while in the hospital.

HAI Prevention

The majority of hospital-acquired infections are transmitted through poorly-sterilized instruments and devices, cross contamination, and skin-to-skin contact. Therefore, in order to prevent bacteria and viruses from spreading, you must insist on good hygiene when you’re being treated.

Patients. As a patient, make sure you:

  • Cover your mouth when coughing, sneezing, or expelling any fluid from your mouth or nose.
  • Wash your hands after going to the bathroom or handling any instruments provided by the hospital (pens, thermometers, sample containers, etc.).
  • Talk to your doctor and nurses about cross-contamination possibilities.

Staff. Insist that your caregivers are following these procedures:

  • Washing their hands with soap or an alcohol-based solution before touching a patient.
  • When handling stool or urine samples, making sure they wear gloves and wash their hands afterward.
  • Wearing sterile gloves before touching any sterile tools or devices such as catheters.
  • Checking to see that dressing packages are in place and previously unopened.
  • Following the Pronovost checklist in cases where a central line is needed.
  • Removing devices that enter the body, including central lines and urinary catheters, as soon as they're no longer needed.
  • Making sure all tools that may enter the body are 100% sterilized.

The Help You Need to Fight Back

No one should ever have to suffer the consequences of someone else’s mistake. Unfortunately, HAIs cause many patients to pay for hospital negligence with pain, time, and money for treatment costs. Don’t allow medical incompetence to cost you more than it should. If you contracted an illness or infection as a result of improper patient care or poor hospital cleanliness, contact us today for a free consultation and review of your case.

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