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New Federal Report Shows Progress in Reducing Health Care-Associated Infections

December 10, 2020

Preventing health care-associated infections (HAI) is a top priority for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and its partners. This increased focus and commitment to protecting patients has served as the foundation for improved HAI rates nationally. CDC’s newly published 2019 National and State Healthcare-Associated Infections (HAI) Progress Report shows that the U.S. has made significant reductions in several types of HAIs and highlights areas where more improvements are needed.

HAIs are infections that patients can get while receiving treatment for a medical or surgical condition in a hospital or other health care facility. Some patients are at higher risk, such as those with immune system deficiencies, young children, or elderly patients. Other factors also can increase risk, such as longer hospital stays. Patients who acquire infections often spend additional time in the hospital healing from the infection.

Each day, approximately one in 31 U.S. patients has at least one infection in association with his or her hospital care, underscoring the need for improvements in patient care practices in U.S. health care facilities. While much progress has been made, more needs to be done to prevent health care-associated infections in a variety of settings.

The new CDC report provides a summary of select HAIs across four health care settings: acute care hospitals (ACH), critical access hospitals (CAH), inpatient rehabilitation facilities (IRF), and long-term acute care hospitals (LTACH) for several types of HAIs:

  • Central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSI)
  • Catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTI)
  • Ventilator-associated events (VAE)
  • Surgical site infections (SSI)
  • Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bloodstream events
  • Clostridioides difficile (C. difficile) events

Highlights at the national level for acute care hospitals between 2018 and 2019 include:

  • Overall, about a 7 percent decrease in CLABSIs
  • Overall, about an 8 percent decrease in CAUTIs
  • Overall, there was a 2 percent increase in VAEs
  • Overall, there was no significant change in SSIs related to the ten select procedures tracked in the report
  • There was no significant change in hospital onset MRSA bacteremias
  • About an 18 percent decrease in hospital onset C. difficile infections

Utilization of devices (central lines, Foley catheters, and ventilators) in acute care hospitals between 2018 and 2019 include:

  • Overall, about a 3 percent decrease in central line device utilization
  • Overall, about a 7 percent decrease in urinary catheter device utilization
  • Overall, there was a 3 percent increase in ventilator utilization

Pennsylvania acute care hospitals between 2018 and 2019 showed no significant change in their HAI reductions except for hospital onset C. difficile infections which showed a 19 percent decrease. Largely, hospitals showed some reduction in all other categories, but it was not significant. Utilization decreased for all devices used (central line utilization by 2 percent, Foley catheters usage by 5 percent, and ventilator utilization by 3 percent).

More work is to be done. HAP now is recruiting for the next Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ improvement program, which will start during the spring. This program targets critical access and rural hospitals and larger acute care hospitals that serve vulnerable communities. Prevention of HAIs is included in this new program. 

For more information about Pennsylvania hospitals’ continuing efforts surrounding infection prevention, please contact HAP’s infection preventionists Mary Catanzaro, or Clare Edelmayer.