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Prevention of Hospital-Acquired Infections: Hospital-Acquired Infections Statistics

Updated on February 5, 2012

Why People Get Sick in the Hospital

Hospitals and emergency rooms can be highly unhealthful places, often more filled with disease-causing viruses and bacteria than the toilet seat in your own home or even a public restroom’s. In addition to germs, patients need to fear the inevitable mistakes hurried doctors and nurses often make. One intensive care unit recently tracked its errors and found that its staff, including both doctors and nurses, made an average of 1.7 mistakes per patient, each day! If that’s the number that they admit to, can you imagine what it may be in other hospitals, perhaps yours? Do you want to be the patient who has to live, or die in some cases, because of one of those mistakes? I’m guessing not. There are some things you can do, however, to ensure your own rapid recovery and a speedy discharge from the hospital.

Hospital Death Statistics

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Avoid Hospital-Acquired Infection

By most estimates, five percent of patients pick up an infection while at the hospital. Each year, that equates to nearly two million people ending up sicker than they were prior to being admitted to the hospital because of hospital-acquired infections. Many of these hospital-acquired infections are minor and pose no serous threat to life. In the United States, however, hospital-acquired infections are the fourth major cause of death! Even if you don't pick up a serious infection while in the hospital, do you want to extend your stay? Demanding cleanliness is the solution. Ask everybody, from doctors to visitors, to wash their hands or at least use a germ-killing sanitizer when they enter your room. No, rubbing your hands together doesn't generate enough heat to disinfect your hands; you must use soap, disinfectants, a sanitizing wand, or some other proven method to kill germs. Doctors should wash their hands each time they come in contact with a different patient. In reality, studies suggest that doctors typically do this only a third of the time. Patients typically have compromised immune functioning, and inert germs can often cause serious infection. Because of this, all visitors, even friends and family, must wash their hands when entering your room. Remember, that washing your hands is always better than using germ-killing sanitizers. Using these hand sanitizers, however, is always better than nothing.

Hand cleanliness is only half the battle. Make sure you request that stethoscopes, blood pressure cuffs, bed rails, the TV remote, and any other things you come in contact with are disinfected with a wipe. In a weakened state, germs can easily take hold and cause an infection, so cleanliness is the key.

Think this is a little overboard? What's particularly scary is that an increasing number of hospital infections are now caused by superbugs, antibiotic-resistant bacteria. One example, Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is hard to kill because of its resistance to multiple antibiotics. Do you want to be in a hospital with little means to combat an infection? The best way to combat these superbugs is to make sure you never get infected in the first place. Still not convinced? Betsy McCaughey, founder of the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths, stated, "These infections (hospital-acquired) kill as many people each year in our country as AIDS, breast cancer, and auto accidents combined." While that number seems inconsistent with other studies and statistics, it certainly is cause for concern.

Hospital-Acquired Germs, Infections, and Diseases

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How to Get Discharged From the Hospital

In an effort to be a good patient, we often allow nurses and even doctors to administer medications and treatments that are unnecessary or even counterproductive. Feel free to ask questions. Ask, “Do I need this medication or treatment?” You may be surprised to find out how often extraneous treatments and medications are being administered. In some cases, poor communication between doctors and nurses results in improper care, medications, and treatments. I've seen this occur on several occasions, so beware of this potential. Remember that all treatments and drugs come with possible risks, so be your own advocate by communicating with all health professionals you come in contact with while in the hospital.

Remember that you must be your own advocate, ensuring proper care, cleanliness, and only necessary treatments. Without your own diligent efforts, it's likely that you, the patient, will not receive the spotless care you deserve. Be proactive, outspoken, and live!

Medical Negligence & Hospital Negligence

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