It's bad enough being ill. Anything serious enough to require hospitalization is worse.
So you're safe in the hospital right? Wrong. Hospital acquired infections, or nosocomial infections, are reported to kill 99,000 every year.
That's more than the amount of people that die each year from AIDS, breast cancer and road accidents.
The presence of the risk itself makes sense. After all, where are all of the sickest people? At the hospital. Where are all of the viruses, fungi, and airborne bacteria that made them ill in the first place? Also, at the hospital. So, in a way, hospitals are a veritable breeding ground for pathogenic microorganisms.
In order to arm yourself with ammunition for the next time you need to go to the hospital or are putting a loved one in one, we've put together 3 ways to prevent nosocomial infections.
You have the right to know the infection rates of your healthcare facility. A fight for more transparency coupled with government rewarding healthcare facilities for hitting certain infection control performace criteria has made access to the rates more available. The new reporting requirements apply to hospitals that participate in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services program. Virtually all hospitals in the country participate because they earn a higher Medicare payment for doing so. Last year, Medicare payments to hospitals were tied to how well they protect patients from these infections and perform on other patient safety standards. Sites like Hospital Compare and SafePatientProject.org have gained a lot of popularity due to this new level of reporting. Make sure to do your due dilligence before choosing your hospital or long term care facility.
You also need to communicate directly with the staff. Don't be afraid to speak up and ask questions. After all, it's your health we're talking about here! Ask the doctor or nurse that just walked into your room if they've just washed their hands. Keep an eye on staff as they perform procedures such as inserting catheters to make sure that they're wearing gloves. Also, gloves should be changed between each procedure and each patient. If you yourself have an infection that could be easily transmittable to others, ask the hospital staff if you should be placed in isolation for the protection of other patients. This simply means that staff entering your room will wear a special gown, gloves, and mask.
The ideal environment for prevention of infection is a well-ventilated one. Studies have proven that an open window makes a tremendous statistical improvement in preventing the spread of disease through frequent air exchanges. Ask your healthcare professional how they ventilate their facility.
Below, Ecologist and TED Fellow Jessica Green talks about how mechanical ventilation does get rid of many types of microbes, but the wrong kinds: the ones left in the hospital are much more likely to be pathogens. Interesting clip.
The best way to prevent a nosocomial infections is to educate youself on 4 things often:
1: best handwashing practices.
2: Your rights as a patient.
3: New infection control technologies that your facilities should carry (if they don't have it, demand it).
4: Follow the CDC Blog.
For more information on new infection control technology, visit Novaerus.com