Hospital Acquired Infections (“HAIs”) are infections acquired by patients during their stay at the hospital while being treated for other illnesses. HAIs represent an increasing trend affecting thousands of patients and resulting in serious consequences to not only the patient, but also to hospitals, the health-care system and tax-payers. Currently injuries to patients such as “hospital-acquired infections caused by medical interventions are increasing and responsible for 44,000 to 98,000 deaths per year,” with a “cost of $17 - $29 billion” annually
(Gaynes, et al., 2001). This financial burden gets passed on to Medicaid and Medicare, and ultimately to us tax-payers. The irony of it all is that HAIs are preventable if only human resources departments at hospitals (“HR”) would be more proactive in implementing the appropriate measures.
The U.S. Department and Human Services and the Agency of Health Care Research and Quality reported in April of 2010 after a study conducted in 2009 that three health acquired infections such as bloodstream infections, postoperative catheter-associated urinary tract infections, infections due to medical care increased in 2009. Bloodstream infections increased by 8%, postoperative catheter-associated urinary tract infections increased by 3.6%, and infections due to medical care increased by 1.6% (Agency of Health Care Research and Quality, 2010).
This is only the tip of the ice-berg, there are many other HAIs reported and increasing. One example of is the story of Mr. McClearly, a healthy father and husband, who was admitted to the hospital in September of 2008 with a minor fracture to his ankle, was discharged 12 days later, but was readmitted to the hospital two days later because of a MRSA pneumonia, which Mr. McClearly acquired while at the hospital. MRSA pneumonia is a staph infection that causes fatal pneumonia. After three month struggling with the effects of the infection Mr. McClearly died (Day, Kathy, 2008). Stories such as that of Mr. McClearly are alarming and, as some studies suggest, could have had been prevented. Organizations such as the Center for Disease and Control (“CDC”) state that monitoring/ surveillance, accountability, education and training together with stricter policies reduce infections acquired at hospitals by a drastic percentage.
This is where HR comes into play. They are the vital source of resolving this increasing trend through educating and developing employees, increasing accountability and increasing technology support (Fried and Fottler, 2008). HR has the vital role to educate and train employees from janitorial staff all the way to physicians and nurses on the importance and impact of proper hygiene and safety control. I have heard stories of doctors coming in to work sick because of fear of being seen as slacking. Policies and education must come into play in situations like this.
HR has also the responsibility to implement accountability standards among staff members. Studies suggest that increasing guidelines and policies in conjunction with the heightened awareness and reporting of patient personnel has had a tremendous impact on the decrease of infections. The findings suggest that increasing the accountability among hospital staff members and employees altered their behavior and the “perceived value of the data, relied on for decisions” (Center for Disease and Control, 2001).
HR’s role in implementing technological advances within the healthcare organization so that the organization can provide higher quality services and customer satisfaction is also vital in the fight against HAIs. An article written by Susie Cantrell for the Healthcare Purchasing News validates the importance of implementing surveillance monitoring systems. In her article she writes that “there are three basic reasons it is important to track infections: (1) it facilitates better patient care and patient safety; (2) it can help to reduce or avoid the financial burden of infection, such as increased lengths of stay, increased antibiotic use, reduced reimbursements by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid and others who are now following their lead; and (3) to comply with mandated reporting of HAIs”.
This further confirms how crucial HR’s role is in preventing HAIs. It’s frightening to know that a simple stay at the hospital can result in the loss of a love one, because proper education, awareness, accountability and an adequate surveillance/ monitoring system was not implemented properly by that hospital’s HR department. Pushing HR departments to be more proactive on avoiding such risks brings peace of mind to not only the patient and staff, but also to the health institutions and us tax-payers. Consequently, through these measures HR is able to positively contribute to the organization’s bottom line.
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. (2010, April 13). Retrieved August 27, 2010, from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: http://www.ahrq.gov/news/press/pr2010/qrdr09pr.htm
Cantrell, Susan . (2010, June). Automated surveillance can stop infections in their tracks. Healthcare Purchasing News. Retrieved from URL: http://www.hpnonline.com/inside/2010-06/1006-IP.html
Day, Cathy. (2008). John McClearly of Main. The Safe Patient Project. Consumer Union. Retrieved from URL: http://www.safepatientproject.org/sys-hospital_acquired_infections.html#john_mccleary_of_maine
Fried, Bruce J. and Myron, Fottler D. (2008), Human Resources In Healthcare, Managing for Success. 3rd ed., 978-1-56793-299-7
Gaynes, R., Richards, C., Edwards, J., Emori, T. G., Horan, T., Alonso-Echanove, J., et al. (2001, April). Emerging Infectious Diseases. Retrieved August 27, 2010, from Centers for Disease Control: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/eid/vol7no2/gaynes.htm
Klevens, R. M., Edwards, J. R., Richards, C. L., Horan, T. C., Gaynes, R. P., Pollock, D. A., et al. (2007, March-April). Estimating Health Care-Associated Infections and Deaths in U.S. Hopitals,2002. Public Health Reports, 122.
McKinney, M. (2010). Gaining Control: CDC:Infection rates drop, but progress still unclear. Modern Healthcare, 40(22), pp. 8-9.
Mirza, A., & Custodio, H. T. (2010, July 20). Hosptial Acquired Infections. Retrieved September 2, 2010, from Emedicine: http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/967022-overview
Scott II, R. D. (2009, March 12). Estimates of Healthcare Associated Infections. Retrieved September 1, 2010, from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dhqp/pdf/Scott_CostPaper.pdf
World Health Organization. (2002). Prevention of hospital-acquired infections: A practical guide. 2nd edition. Retrieved September 1, 2010, from World Health Organization: http://www.who.int/csr/resources/publications/drugresist/en/whocdscsreph200212.pdf