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HHS updates national action plan to fight HAIs


The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services seeks public comment on an updated national action plan to eliminate healthcare-associated infections.

The update confirms progress in the effort to make healthcare safer and less costly by reducing preventable complications of care, including HAIs, according to HHS.

Each day, approximately one in every 20 patients has an infection related to the patient’s hospital care, according to HHS. These infections cost the U.S. healthcare system billions of dollars each year and lead to the loss of tens of thousands of lives. In addition, HAIs can have devastating emotional, financial and medical consequences.

HAIs in hospitals have been declining since 2009, when HHS first introduced its National Action Plan to Prevent Healthcare-Associated Infections: Roadmap to Elimination, according to data submitted to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Healthcare Safety Network.

Specifically, central line-associated bloodstream infections have declined by 35%, surgical site infections by 10% and catheter-associated urinary tract infections by 7% since the baselines were set.

In addition, invasive Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infections have declined by 18%, and the use of measures known to prevent SSIs, as reported by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ Surgical Care Improvement Project, have steadily increased since the baseline was established.

The HAI Action Plan has nine goals: 50% reduction in bloodstream infections, 100% adherence to central line insertion practices, 30% reduction in Clostridium difficile infections, 30% reduction in C. difficile hospitalizations, 25% reduction in urinary tract infections, 50% reduction in MRSA invasive infections (in the general population), 25% reduction in MRSA bacteremia, 25% reduction in surgical site infections and 95% adherence to surgical SCIP measures.

Troubling trend

Although many HAIs declined in the 2000s, data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality showed the number of hospital stays associated with C. difficile tripled before leveling off at historically high rates. In addition, a recent CDC report showed that C. difficile infections have moved beyond hospitals, with 75% of these infections now beginning in medical settings outside hospitals, such as nursing homes and outpatient clinics.

Since 2009, the HAI Action Plan has marshaled resources across HHS, several other federal agencies and numerous stakeholders to substantially reduce HAIs by 2013. Phase one of the effort has focused on combating HAIs in hospitals, while phase two focuses on ambulatory surgical settings, end-stage renal disease facilities and the influenza vaccination of healthcare personnel. A third phase, starting this summer, will focus on long-term care facilities.

For more information on the national action plan and a link to leave comments, visit For state-by-state data on the prevention of HAIs, visit


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