Pharmacy OneSource Blog

Five HAI Facts that Emphasize the Challenges of Infection Prevention

Posted on 06/24/15


According to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, 1 out of every 25 patients will develop at least one HAI while hospitalized. Nationally, that comes to more than 721,000 HAIs each year--and 75,000 mortalities. Many medical professionals believe that they already do everything necessary to keep healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) to a minimum. If your colleagues question the need for an infection prevention program, you may want to share with them these five facts about healthcare-associated infection rates in U.S. hospitals and how dramatically robust infection prevention programs can reduce them.

  1. HAIs affect hundreds of thousands of patients and have a more than 10% mortality rate. According to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, 1 out of every 25 patients developed at least one HAI while hospitalized in 2011. Nationally, that comes to more than 721,000 HAIs each year--and 75,000 mortalities.1

  2. Two of the most common HAIs cost hospitals more than $40,000 per case, on average. Central line-associated bloodstream infections have an average cost of $45,814, while ventilator-associated pneumonia averages $40,144 per instance.2 Because Medicare and many other payers no longer reimburse for many healthcare-associated infections, hospitals must bear the costs, leading to significant erosion of the bottom line in facilities with inadequate infection prevention programs.

  3. More than half of HAIs occur independent of devices or surgeries. Infection reporting and programs have focused on device-related and surgical site infections, but these efforts fail to address the causes of 52.6% of all HAIs. Infection prevention programs need to look at larger issues and implement initiatives to reduce all HAIs.

  4. Clostridium difficile causes more HAIs than any other pathogen. The bacteria C. difficile causes at least 250,000 HAIs and 14,000 deaths each year. While not yet significantly resistant to antibiotics, treatment with antimicrobials significantly increases the risk of developing a C. difficile infection. As of 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) consider C. difficile an urgent threat.3 C. difficile already poses a significant financial threat to hospitals as this common infection averages $11,285 in largely unreimbursed costs.

  5. Infection prevention programs can help. At the hospital, regional and national level, infection prevention and control programs have reduced HAI rates from 1.7 million cases with 99,000 mortalities in 2002 to the markedly lower numbers reported in 2011.4 Individual hospitals that have created high-performing infection prevention programs report reductions in HAIs of up to 68%.5 Evidence indicates that rates have continued to drop, but much work remains.6

 What information have you used to convince colleagues and administrators of the importance of infection prevention?

infection prevention options


1. Magill SS, Edwards JR, Bamberg W, et al. Multistate Point-Prevalence Survey of Health Care–Associated Infections. N Engl J Med 2014;370:1198-208.

2. Zimlichman E, Henderson D, Tamir O, Franz C, Song P, Yamin CK, Keohane C, Denham CR, Bates DW. Health care-associated infections: a meta-analysis of costs and financial impact on the US health care system. JAMA Intern Med. 2013 Dec 9-23;173(22):2039-46.

3. Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States, 2013. CDC.

4. Klevens RM, Edwards JR, Richards CL Jr, Horan TC, Gaynes RP, Pollock DA, Cardo DM. Estimating health care-associated infections and deaths in U.S. hospitals, 2002. Public Health Rep. 2007 Mar-Apr;122(2):160-6.

5. Srinivasan A. Preventing Healthcare Associated Infections: The Federal Perspective. CDC.

6. Healthcare-Associated Infections (HAI) Progress Report. CDC. Updated March 23, 2015.

Topics: Infection Prevention

About the Author

Tim McMenamin has more than 30 years of experience in the Hospital Information Technology (HIT) industry and has been an active member of HIMSS, ASHP, HFMA and other healthcare communities for many years. Leveraging emerging technologies to deliver clinical content to the point-of-care has been an area of special interest and research.