In our previous posts about DALYs and QALYs, we have defined the terms and presented how the healthcare field calculates these two measures of disease burden. In today's post, we will narrow our view to just hospital-associated infections and their disease burden. After reading this post, you should have a more detailed picture of the impact HAIs have on American lives.
In a widely-circulated interview, President Biden stated that the pandemic was, in effect, over. While not an official statement and also clarified over the next few days, the idea that the worst of the pandemic is over has been echoed by global medical experts. So what now? A return to "normal" in the medical field does not mean no more infections; in fact, it means returning to a world where almost 100,000 people die each year from infections they acquired while receiving medical care - most of which are preventable. There are many similarities between a pandemic and the on-going crisis of hospital-acquired infections, and in today's post, we will explore them.
Imagine you are a physician doing rounds in a hospital. You and a colleague walk into the room of a patient infected with MRSA. You are careful to wear gloves, and avoid touching the patient, but instead check his medical devices and other equipment. Alongside you, your colleague performs a routine exam of the patient himself, touching various parts of his body as needed. After the visit, you and your colleague remove your gloves and each pair is tested for contamination by MRSA. Whose gloves are the most contaminated? The answer may surprise you.
When we enter a hospital room as a patient, we are seeing the room at its cleanest. The room has just been scrubbed down during what is called "terminal cleaning," the rigorous cleaning that takes place after one patient is moved in preparation for the next patient to move in. However rigorous this cleaning procedure (and studies indicate that up to 60% of hospital rooms are not cleaned properly), there will be residual contamination by infectious pathogens. In a dynamic process of contamination and recontamination, after cleaning and through cross-transmission, germs stick around and continue to make patients sicker.