MRSA infection rates improving

Originally posted 9-1-2010:
One of the hot topics in the patient safety world is Healthcare Associated Infections (HAIs). These are infections that occur as a result of treatment in a hospital or other healthcare setting.  Rates of HAIs peaked at 2.3 infections per 1000 hospital visits in 2004 and 2005.  This may not sound like much, but it can become a serious issue when hospital stays can last up to 19 days longer and add nearly $43,000 in costs.   It can be extremely devastating and dangerous if an infection is acquired from a surgery; the cost of one Surgical Site Infection (SSI) can be up to $60,000 and significantly increase the chance.... Some of these infections are resistant to certain antibiotics, making it difficult to treat.  One particular nasty infection is Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA as it is commonly known.   

The increased costs and risk to the patient is why various safety groups are looking at HAI reduction as a hot item. The significance can be seen with the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC)  "Targeting Zero" campaign.  The premise being to reduce the number of HAIs to zero.  It is a bold and noble goal, but a lot of work needs to be done to get there.  There has been a lot of emphasis on solutions that include better education on handwashing techniques, use of checklists to ensure proper central line catheter insertion, and electronic surveillance software.

It appears that the emphasis on reducing HAIs may be having a positive effect.  A recent article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that rates of healthcare associated MRSA infections dropped 28% between 2005 and 2008.  Community acquired MRSA infections dropped 17% during this period as well. This bit of good news was also featured on NPR recently.  It is very promising to see these results and report on an area where improvements have been made.  This vigilance needs to continue to get closer to that target of zero.