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Preventing healthcare-acquired infections

Pneumonia, urinary tract infections, blood stream diseases: These are all conditions that can drive people to a healthcare facility for treatment. Unfortunately, too many people in California and across the country will actually contract these infections from simply spending time in the facility for an unrelated condition. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 1 in 25 patients will experience a healthcare-associated disease, which includes a surgical site infection, leading to a worsened medical condition and additional treatment.

There are steps at the national, state and even individual level that can prevent this from happening. According to the Committed to Reduce Infection Deaths, patients can do the following to reduce the odds of contracting an illness while in the hospital:

  • Ask that a stethoscope get wiped down with alcohol, as these tools often carry bacteria.
  • Choose a surgeon who has a low infection rate.
  • Inquire about receiving an antibiotic one hour before having a procedure.
  • If hair must be removed for surgery, ask that the staff use clippers instead of a razor, which can nick the skin and leave an opening for germs.
  • Avoid a urinary tract catheter whenever possible.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that healthcare-associated infections account for up to $33 billion in medical expenses that are likely preventable. The DHHS has launched a plan to reduce the number of these conditions, allocating money on the state level for better infrastructure and investing more funds into research.

Though patients may be able to take steps to protect themselves, ultimately the responsibility lies on medical facilities and staff to prevent these types of situations.

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