HHS Plans to Eliminate HAIs

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) says it has identified the key actions needed to achieve and sustain progress in protecting patients from the transmission of serious and, in some cases, deadly infections. The Action Plan to Prevent Health Care-Associated Infections (the Plan), unveiled Jan. 6, establishes a set of five-year national prevention targets that HHS says will “reduce and possibly eliminate” health care-associated infections (HAIs).

HAIs are infections that patients acquire while undergoing medical treatment or surgical procedures. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that about 1.7 million HAIs occurred in U.S. hospitals in 2002 and were associated with 99,000 deaths. The CDC also estimates that HAIs add as much as $20 billion to health care costs each year. Staph infections alone cost Medicare $2.5 billion in 2005, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP).

The Plan lists a number of areas in which HAIs can be prevented. Over the next five years, the HHS Steering Committee for the Plan, established in July 2008, will concentrate its activities on the following six categories of health care-associated infections:

  • Central line-associated bloodstream infections;
  • Clostridium difficile infections;
  • Catheter-associated urinary tract infections;
  • Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus infections;
  • Surgical site infections; and
  • Ventilator-associated pneumonia.

Read the Plan on the HHS Office of Public Health and Science Web site (OPHS) Web site. Public comment is being accepted via email until Feb. 6. HHS plans to hold meetings in the spring to provide additional opportunities for public comment on the Plan. Look for dates posted on the OPHS Web site.

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