Germs are everywhere, and they can lead to infections if we’re not on guard. Normally, our bodies’ immune systems can fight off infections, but when we’re sick and in the hospital, it becomes more difficult. Not only are our immune systems weaker, but if we have an open wound or a place where a tube has to be inserted, we have to take extra precautions.
Alabama’s hospitals are preventing infections:
There are many ways hospitals fight the spread of infection, such as making sure patient areas are as clean and germ-free as possible and sterilizing equipment. They also keep patients separate that are highly contagious and use special procedures when treating them to prevent the spread of germs to other patients. Plus, all staff are encouraged to wash their hands after every patient contact.
2012 report (released Sept. 2013)- statewide report on hospital infections - Alabama's hospitals performed better than the national in all four of the reporting categories.
Preventing infections using science – There is scientific evidence that if hospitals do certain things, they can prevent the spread of infections, things like giving antibiotics before surgery. They have also learned that when they put a tube into the body, such as a catheter to help a bed-bound patient go to the bathroom, they have to be really careful to keep the area clean and to take the tube out as soon as possible. The same is true with central lines (tubes placed into large blood vessels to help provide nutrition or medication, such as chemotherapy).
More than two-thirds of Alabama’s hospitals participated in a two-year project to eliminate central-line associated blood stream infections. During this time, they reduced the number of these infections by 53 percent … more than half!
Using technology – Alabama’s hospitals also use technology to fight infections. It’s an automated system that takes certain pieces of patient information, such as their age, illness and lab reports and runs a formula that can detect whether there is a possibility of an infection. Using these automated markers is a little bit like a smoke alarm for hospitals in that once alerted, the staff can dig deeper to see if there is an infection, and if there is one, prevent its spread.
Using this technology, Alabama's hospitals have reduced the rate of infections each year. In the last year alone, it is estimated that hospitals have saved more than $5 million and, more importantly, prevented infections in 1,258 patients!
To view a report on Alabama hospitals and infections, click here.
How you can prevent an infection:
If you have cancer and are on chemotherapy, you are more likely to get an infection because your immune system is probably weaker. Click here to read how you can be especially careful and avoid infections.
Many infections, particularly staph, come from the community. Click here to read how you can reduce your exposure to staph infections.
Be smart when you take antibiotics – Over time, germs build up a resistance to antibiotics, which means the antibiotics may not work as well as they once did. This is called antibiotic resistance, and the more we use antibiotics, the less effective they are in fighting infections. This isn’t to say you should avoid taking antibiotics, just that you should take them only when necessary and in the right way. Click here to read more about how you and your health care providers can wisely use these medications.