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Five Reasons You Need a High-Performing Infection Prevention Program

Posted on 08/19/14

Five_Reasons_You_Need_a_High-Performing_Infection_Prevention_Program

Infection prevention and control (IPC) programs in hospitals have succeeded in dramatically reducing the incidence of healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) over the last decade, but a recent point-prevalence survey found that on any given day, about 1 in 25 hospital patients continue to have at least one HAI [1]. Given the heightened transparency of HAI rates through mandated public reporting, continuing emergence of multi-drug resistant bacteria (MDRO), and the trajectory of the patient safety movement, hospitals need high-performing infection prevention programs. Here are five reasons why:

1. Early identification of at-risk patients saves lives.

Healthcare-associated infection rates remain high—and deadly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) prevalance survey estimated 722,000 HAIs occurred in US hospitals in 2011 and that 75,000 hospital patients with HAIs died during their hospitalization. High-performing IPC programs target at-risk patients to prevent HAIs and can identify patients with HAIs more quickly, allowing for early intervention with appropriate treatment and improved patient outcomes. Hospitals that have implemented these programs have seen rates of certain HAIs drop by as much as 68%.

2. Rapid detection of outbreaks minimizes cross-transmission of sentinel organisms to other patients, staff and visitors.

An IPC program that enables you to receive real-time notifications of patients with sentinel organisms (MDROs) and communicable diseases (TB) of interest ensures that isolation precautions are promptly initiated.

3. Preventing infections boosts the bottom line.

HAIs significantly increase the costs of medical care. Nationally, HAIs in hospitals cost in excess of $25 billion annually and, in many instances, and reimbursement by payors has been decreasing as recent reports demonstrate that many HAIs are preventable. Many HAIs, including vascular catheter infections, central-line associated bloodstream infections, catheter-associated urinary tract infections and surgical site infections appear on the Center for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) no-payment list for hospital-acquired conditions. The imposed financial penalties can significantly impact hospital revenues. The estimated cost of one central-line associated bloodstream infection was recently cited as $45,814 with an attributable excess length of stay of 10.4 days [2].

4. Preventing infections protects your hospital’s reputation.

Through the Affordable Care Act Value Based Purchasing Program, CMS requires national public reporting of HAIs, and as a result, nearly every U.S. hospital’s HAI rates are transparent to consumers visible on the CMS Hospital Compare website. High rates pose a reputational risk for hospitals and can lead to loss of patients and revenue, making a high-performing IPC a sound investment.

5. Prospective surveillance with prompt analysis and reporting of HAI data keeps you on the right side of regulators.

Thirty-one states require hospitals to publicly report specific HAIs to the CDC’s National Healthcare Safety Network and financial penalties or incentives can be associated with the findings. Standardized infection ratio (SIR) is a summary measure used to track HAIs over time and compares the actual number of HAIs reported with the baseline US experience (i.e. NHSN aggregate data). In order for SIRs to be used as a reliable metric for inter-facllity and inter-hospital comparisons, HAI surveillance must be conducted using standardized case-finding methodology and NHSN definitions. Analyzing the HAI infection data to identify performance improvement opportunities should be an ongoing process, but the time and expertise often exceeds the resources of IPC departments. High-performing IPC programs capture the data needed for analysis in an efficient and consistent manner, create the necessary reports for regulatory compliance on time, and provide executive dashboards for at-a-glance data trending.  

What are some other reasons that you think you need a high-performing infection prevention program? We’d love to hear your additions below.


[1] Magill SS, Edwards JR, Bamberg W, Beldavs ZG, Dumyati G et al. MultiState Point-Prevalence Survey of Healthcare-Associated Infections. N Engl J Med 2014;370:1198-208.

[2] Zimlichman E, Henderson D, Tamir O, Franz C, Song P et al. Healthcare-Associated Infections A Meta-Analysis of Costs and Financial Impact on the US Health Care System.  JAMA Intern Med 2013;173(22):2039-2046.


infection prevention


Topics: Infection Prevention

About the Author

Joan N. Hebden, RN, MS, CIC served as the Director of Infection Prevention and Control for 28 years at the University of Maryland Medical Center, Baltimore, MD. Her clinical background includes general medicine, oncology, and cardiothoracic intensive care. She has presented at national epidemiology conferences, participated in research regarding the transmission of multi-drug resistant bacteria, contributed chapters on infection control to nursing resource textbooks, and published in medical and infection control journals. Joan received her Bachelor of Science degree in nursing and a Master of Science degree in nursing education and trauma/critical care from the University of Maryland School of Nursing. She is certified in Infection Control & Epidemiology (CIC). Joan is an active member of SHEA and APIC and is currently on the Editorial Board of the American Journal of Infection Control (AJIC).