Hospital Acquired Infections: What They Are & How To Reduce HAIs With Antibacterial Healthcare Garments

Hospital-acquired infections (also known as HAIs and healthcare-associated infections) pose a serious threat to patient health during medical procedures. HAIs are infections that patients are afflicted by while receiving treatment for another condition and are common in long-term care facilities, hospitals, and other healthcare settings.

HAIs are the collateral damage of the healthcare industry, prolonging hospital stays, causing illnesses, increasing costs, and resulting in thousands of entirely preventable deaths.

Here at Barrier Technologies Inc., our engineers are dedicated to helping healthcare organizations mitigate the risks of hospital-acquired infections by developing innovative radiation protection garments that are antibacterial and can be easily cleaned.

Continue reading to learn more about the threats posed by HAIs, the damage they cause, and how you can use our magnetic closure system to help prevent these infections from spreading.

preventing hospital acquired infection

Hospital Acquired Infections: How Common Are They?

According to CDC data, out of every 31 hospital patients, 1 has an HAI. The situation is only marginally better in nursing homes, where 1 out of every 43 residents is infected with an HAI.

Unfortunately, these numbers aren’t decreasing, as the CDC’s research suggests that HAIs are increasingly being caused by bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens that are evolving to resist the antimicrobial medications administered to kill them.

So while healthcare organizations must strive to follow appropriate use of antimicrobial medications in order to mitigate the growth of antibiotic resistant germs, hospitals, nursing homes, and clinics must also work to prevent these infections from spreading in the first place.

This is where antibacterial protective garments, like the ones developed by Barrier Technologies, come in. But before introducing you to our HAI solutions, let’s first look at the damage caused by HAIs so that you understand the severity of the situation and why mitigative steps are so necessary.

Impact of Hospital Acquired Infections

HAIs are destructive to patient health, drag down healthcare efficiency, and drive up spending.

The CDC estimates that 1.7 million patients acquire HAIs each year. Even worse, over 98,000 patients are being killed by HAIs annually. This means that hospital acquired infections are killing more Americans than HIV/AIDS, diabetes, and traffic accidents.

As for spending, according to the CDC, the financial impact of HAIs in the USA is at least $28.4 billion per year, with an additional $12.4 billion being lost due to “early deaths and lost productivity.”

The excess costs associated with some of the most common HAIs are:

  • SSI: $20,800
  • CDI: $11,000
  • VAP: $40,000
  • CLABSI: $45,800
  • CAUTI: $1,000 in extra costs per patient with this HAI

Put another way, if you were to average these costs and charge a surcharge from all patients (both those with and without HAIs) in order to cover these excess costs, then you’d be billing an additional $1,100 per patient at your hospital.

Another way that HAIs bog down spending and efficiency is by increasing the length of hospital stays. While the average patient only stays at the hospital for about 5 days, patients that contract an HAI see their stay drastically lengthen.

The extra time spent in hospital for HAIs varies depending on the infection. Here’s a quick breakdown of extra days in hospital for different HAIs:

  • SSI + MRSA: 23 extra days
  • CLABSI + MRSA: 15.7 extra days
  • VAP: 13.1 extra days
  • SSI: 11.2 extra days
  • CLABSI: 10.4 extra days
  • CDI: 3.3 extra days

In short, preventing hospital-acquired infections is crucial because these cases are hurting patient health outcomes, driving up healthcare costs, and forcing healthcare providers to test for and treat conditions unrelated to the actual reason a patient sought medical help.

Etiology of Healthcare-Associated Infections

Now that you understand how common and disastrous HAIs are, let’s explore how these pathogens spread and then introduce several things you can do to mitigate the risk of HAIs in your healthcare organization.

HAI Risk Factors

There are a wide variety of risk factors that influence the likelihood of a patient contracting an HAI during their clinic or hospital visit or stay. These include:

  • Age, as older patients are more likely to contract an HAI.
  • Length of stay, as each additional day in hospital increases the chance of pathogen exposure.
  • Immunosuppression, as patients are especially vulnerable to germs during this time.
  • Frequent health facility visits, as the chance of exposure increases with each visit.
  • Invasive medical procedures, as surgical site infection (SSI) is a common HAI.
  • Staying at an intensive care unit, as these are breeding grounds for antibiotic resistant germs.
  • Intravenous antibiotics, as these can lead to developing antimicrobial resistance.

Additional risk factors include obesity, diabetes, co-existing infections, nutritional status, antimicrobial prophylaxis, and duration of medical procedures.

Most Common HAIs

The four most common healthcare-related infections are:

  • Surgical site infection (SSI)
  • Catheter-associated urinary tract infection (CAUTI)
  • Central line-associated bloodstream infection (CLABSI)
  • Ventilator-associated events (VAE)

As for the exact pathogens causing these HAIs, there is a huge variety of organisms responsible, including:

  • Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
  • Burkholderia cepacia
  • Klebsiella
  • Norovirus
  • Tuberculosis (TB)
  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • Vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE)

How HAIs Spread

So whose fault is it that HAIs spread? No single party is to blame, as transmission of these dangerous organisms is the result of many small mistakes by many people.

According to an analysis of 1,022 HAI outbreaks:

  • 25.7% of HAIs are spread by the patient.
  • 11.9% are the fault of medical equipment/devices.
  • 11.6% are spread by the environment.
  • 10.9% of HAIs are spread by healthcare personnel.
  • Finally, in 28.3% of HAI outbreaks, the mode of transmission is unclear.

What we at Barrier Technologies are most concerned about is the 22.8% of HAIs that are transmitted by healthcare staff and medical equipment.

It is our mission to engineer safer radiation protection products for doctors and staff so that the risk of transmitting HAIs via an X-ray vest or collar is effectively mitigated.

How Velcro & Nylon Hospital Products Help Spread HAIs

Nylon radiation protection products (e.g. thyroid shields and aprons) and their velcro closures pose a serious health hazard and contribute to the spread of healthcare-acquired infections. In one study, colonies of Staph, MRSA, and Tinea were found on 84% of lead aprons and thyroid shields. MRSA is commonly found on velcro during bacteriological testing.

Why is this happening?

Because nylon and velcro are notoriously difficult to clean. Even worse, many lead aprons can’t be properly disinfected because the nylon is porous. This results in situations where dozens of people per day are wearing and sharing the same apron without effectively cleaning it.

With each new wearer, the apron acquires more pathogens and the risk of creating an HAI increases.

Why don’t doctors and dentists wear ties? For the same reason your staff shouldn’t be wearing nylon aprons with velcro closures.

HAI Solutions From Barrier Technologies: MagnaGuard™ & UltraFlex™

To help you mitigate the risk of transmitting pathogens with your X-ray protective garments, our engineers have developed two new products that are helping hospitals fight back against HAIs.

UltraFlex™ is our patented, medical-grade, urethane-coated fabric that we recommend instead of traditional nylon. In contrast to nylon’s porous surface, UltraFlex™ is impervious to fluids and can be easily cleaned with disinfectants.

Our UltraFlex™ aprons are stain-resistant, comfortable to wear, antibacterial, and can be cleaned between each use, helping you ensure that HAIs do not spread as a result of apron sharing.

MagnaGuard™ is our HAI solution for velcro. MagnaGuard™ is a magnetic closure system that’s embedded in the apron and thyroid guard lining. Not only do our magnet closures last significantly longer than velcro, they’re also incredibly easy to clean. Simply spray and wipe them down with a hospital grade disinfectant.

Now is the time to fight back and mitigate the risk of healthcare-associated infections in your workplace. Use our antibacterial radiation protection garments to protect your patients and staff from HAIs. For more information contact us today!