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Increase in HAIs Attributed to COVID-19 Burden on Providers
Public Health

Increase in HAIs Attributed to COVID-19 Burden on Providers

The first rule of healthcare is, “Do no harm.” Healthcare providers live by that oath. But sometimes, despite providers’ best efforts, patients obtain hospital acquired infections (HAIs) while receiving care.

In recent years, efforts to reduce HAIs have been successful, with annual cases dropping more and more each year. However, in 2020, there was an increase in HAIs, causing healthcare leaders to examine the reasons behind this spike and if the increase was related to the COVID-19 pandemic and the burden it placed on healthcare facilities and staff.

The Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America posted a newly released study entitled, The impact of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) on healthcare-associated infections in 2020: A summary of data reported to the National Healthcare Safety Network. The take-away is that COVID-19 did indeed contribute to the rise in HAIs in 2020; and the challenge now is reducing the HAIs rate to pre-COVID numbers and resuming the downward trend that was occurring prior to the start of the pandemic.

The study authors determined the incidences of HAIs in U.S. hospitals for each quarter of 2019 and 2020 and national- and state-level standardized infection ratios (SIRs) for each quarter in 2020, and then compared those to rates from 2019. They examined common types of HAIs including: Central–line–associated bloodstream infections (CLABSIs), catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTIs), ventilator-associated events (VAEs), select surgical site infections, and Clostridioides difficile and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteremia laboratory-identified.

The report showed that significant increases in the national SIRs for CLABSI, CAUTI, VAE, and MRSA bacteremia were observed in 2020. The largest increases were recorded in CLABSI, and significant increases in VAE incidence and ventilator utilization.

Results suggest that there is an urgent need to return to conventional infection prevention and control practices and to fortify these programs, so future pandemics or other emergencies will not derail their daily efforts and results. It is noteworthy that other similar studies worldwide reach the same conclusions.

HAIs effect millions of patients annually making them the most frequent adverse events in healthcare delivery. In addition to the human toll, HAIs cost an estimated $9.8 billion annually, leaving lives at risk, and jeopardizing providers’ bottom line, and reputations.

ECRI Infection Prevention and Control services can help you create a cultural shift that drives real change in thought, actions, and outcomes. These services bring together unparalleled resources and decades of experience in infection prevention, patient safety, accident investigation, and device evaluation—driven by evidence.

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