What are Healthcare Acquired Conditions?
Healthcare Acquired Conditions (HACs) are illnesses that patients develop while in a healthcare setting being treated for another condition. These conditions can cause excess healthcare spending and serious harm to patients. In fact, the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that on any given day, about one in 25 hospital patients is affected by a healthcare acquired condition1. However, these conditions are preventable when the right precautions are taken.
Common Types of Healthcare Acquired Conditions to Recognize
Patients may develop infections or injuries in healthcare environments that are not as clean as they should be, or when medical staff fails to follow the best practices for patient safety. Some of the most common types of HACs include2:
- Central line-associated bloodstream infection (CLABSI)
- Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA)
- Catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTI)
- Surgical site infections (SSI)
- Ventilator-associated Pneumonia (VAP)
- Adverse Drug Events
- Falls from Immobility
- Pressure Ulcers
5 Tools for Reducing Healthcare Acquired Conditions
Implementing an effective reduction program for healthcare acquired conditions can be achieved using the following steps.
Hand hygiene is the single most important factor in preventing the spread of harmful pathogens. Employees and staff should always be aware to follow procedures for hand hygiene before contact with a patient or performing an antiseptic procedure, as well as after contact with a patient or exposure to bodily fluids.
The 3 most frequently reported methods of measuring hand hygiene compliance are3:
- Direct observation
- Self-reporting by health care workers (HCWs)
- Indirect calculation based on hand hygiene product usage.
Studies show that hand hygiene compliance in the United States can increase when monitoring is combined with feedback.
Software Solutions for Improving Hand Hygiene
Clinical rounding software is useful for tracking hand hygiene observations and measuring an organization’s current level of hand hygiene performance. A streamlined system for recording observations, follow-up management, and dashboards highlighting areas of noncompliance can help leadership teams define corrective plans for action while reducing the number of healthcare acquired conditions that occur in the future.
Train staff to use antibiotics appropriately to prevent and treat infections. Antibiotics are medications that can have serious adverse effects if proper care is not taken. Unnecessary exposure to antibiotics can lead to antibiotic resistance and other treatment failures. An effective Antibiotic Stewardship Program (ASP) can help providers improve clinical outcomes and minimize patient harm. This includes prescribing the right drug at the right dose at the right time for the right duration4.
Develop methods for surveillance and identifying high-risk patients. For example, studies show that preoperative screenings for MRSA result in significant reductions of postoperative HACs5. There should be a clear system for communication to ensure that the appropriate providers are notified when an infected patient has been identified. This will allow for quick and efficient isolation measures to be applied. Additionally, purposeful patient rounding can help identify deficiencies before they develop into safety events.
Checklists can be utilized to improve performance for specific healthcare acquired conditions. For example, a checklist containing information about catheters used, where the patient was treated, and potential contamination risks can help identify factors that lead to CAUTI contraction in healthcare organizations6. By using a checklist, leaders can identify opportunities to provide additional training around reducing infection rates.
Patient Safety Committee
Create a Patient Safety Committee to identify ongoing opportunities to promote initiatives that promote HAC reduction and identify system-wide trends. Establishing measurable goals and metrics are key to the success of the Patient Safety Committee. When the Patient Safety Committee meets for the first time, it’s critical to identify which metrics the committee will monitor and measure. As the committee begins to create action plans, it’s important to focus on actions that are strong-level actions rather than weaker, more passive actions. Strong actions may include changing physical environment surroundings, removing unnecessary barriers in processes, or implementing software enhancements.
Risk Avoidance: Foster a Culture of Safety
Improving outcomes begins with establishing a culture of safety. To prevent future healthcare acquired conditions, staff should feel safe to speak up about and report patient safety events, including close calls and near misses without fear of punishment. By increasing the number of near misses and incidents reported, healthcare organizations can better understand safety challenges and prevent future patient harm.