Study: Hospitals cut infection rates by decontaminating patients

A hospital-acquired infection can be deadly. Patients who are being treated at Joliet hospitals are already facing complications that are jeopardizing their health, and adding an infection to the list of one’s health complications may put one’s life in even more danger.

In order to ensure patients get the treatment they need and the quality care they deserve, hospitals in Illinois and throughout the United States are required to implement and enforce policies and procedures that help to cut infection rates in their facilities. One simple way hospitals can prevent patients from contracting infections is to make sure all employees and doctors wash their hands before and after treating patients. Properly sterilizing equipment is another standard procedure for minimizing hospital-acquired infections that may result in life-altering injuries.

But even though many U.S. hospitals take an aggressive approach to keep facilities as safe as possible for patients, tens of thousands of patients continue to die every year after contracting infections while being hospitalized. Clearly, hospital-acquired infections are still a threat to patient safety. But according to a new study, another simple action like decontaminating new hospital patients may help to significantly cut hospital infection rates.

Many hospitals in Illinois and across the country already screen new patients for infections so they can treat patients who have infections in areas separate from patients who do not have infections. But the study suggests that hospitals can increase patient safety even more by simply decontaminating all new patients in the ICU before putting patients in hospital rooms.

To effectively decontaminate patients, according to researchers, hospitals should make sure every new patients’ hands are washed with antiseptic wipes and that all patients also receive antibiotic nose ointment treatments. These treatments should also be repeated during patients’ hospital stays, researchers suggest.

According to the study, which was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, patients are 40 percent less likely to get a bloodstream infection when they receive frequent nose swabs and frequent washings and baths during their hospital stays.

Researchers analyzed the effects of these patient decontamination methods at more than 40 hospitals located throughout the country. The study was published last month in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Source: Associated Press, “Decontaminating patients cuts hospital infections,” Lindsey Tanner, May 29, 2013

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