Hospital infections trending down

Hospitals are becoming healthier places for patients, as healthcare-associated infections among hospital patients are declining, according to a recent CDC survey published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The CDC looked at the prevalence of healthcare-associated infections, which are infections that are developed while being treated for other ailments and can be caused by medical devices such as catheters or ventilators.

About one in 31 hospital patients has at least one healthcare-associated infection, according to the CDC.

Healthcare-associated infections are tracked in the National Healthcare Safety Network of the CDC, including approximately 3,800 hospitals.

From 2011 to 2015, healthcare-associated infections dropped from 4 percent of patients to 3.2 percent. The change marked a 16 percent relative decline in patient risk, according to the survey. The drop was mostly due to a lower prevalence of surgical-site and urinary tract infections.

"In this point-prevalence survey conducted in multiple states, we found that health care–associated infections affected 3.2 [percent] of hospitalized patients—a significantly lower percentage than we observed in a survey that had been conducted in 2011," CDC researchers wrote. "These results provide evidence of national success in preventing health care–associated infections, particularly surgical-site and urinary tract infections."

The most common healthcare-associated infections were pneumonia, gastrointestinal infections and surgical-site infections. Hospitals should focus on preventing gastrointestinal infections––specifically C. diff––and pneumonia to continue making hospitals safer for patients.

"Collaborations among health care facilities, public health agencies, and other partners, bolstered by recent increases in support for programs regarding health care–associated infections, will be critical to the continued progress toward the goal of eliminating health care–associated infections," researchers wrote.

Researchers surveyed 12,299 patients in 199 hospitals in 2015 and 11,282 patients in 183 hospitals in 2011.