Healthcare-Associated Infections: A $35-$45 billion problem

“Healthcare-associated infections are one of the biggest causes of avoidable harm and unnecessary death in the developed world” – World Health Organization

Healthcare-associated infections kill more than 99,000 people every year

Over the next few blog posts, we’ll be discussing a group of infections known as healthcare-associated infections, or HAIs. In the US alone, more than 99,000 people die each year from these infections1. While this cost on human life is high, the financial toll is equally staggering . The World Health Organization has called the HAIs one of the biggest causes of avoidable harm and unnecessary deaths in the developed world. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that HAIs add $35-$45 billion in costs to the US healthcare system each year2. As such, healthcare-associated infections have become a costly public health concern that demands immediate attention.

HAIs occur when a patient acquires an infection during the course of treatment at, or a visit to, a healthcare facility. After a patient acquires a HAI, the ramifications are often excessively expensive and deadly. In fact, HAIs are responsible for more deaths each year than car accidents, breast cancer, anorexia or AIDS. On average, they add 19 days to a patient’s hospital stay, and increase medical expenses by more than $45,0003.

A patient checks into a hospital for a routine procedure, catches an infection at the healthcare facility, and is forced to undergo serious surgery to fix damage from a HAI. You can read stories like this everywhere. A mother of two checks into the hospital for a hysterectomy, catches a staph infection, and is forced to suffer from the possibility of future MRSA infection breakouts for the rest of her life. A 47 year old man checks into a hospital for a surgery on his ulcer, contracts a healthcare-associated infection, and leaves with all four limbs amputated, lucky to be alive.

These experiences, sadly, are not uncommon. Many people have first-hand experience with the financial and human life impact of HAIs. After all, this group of infections is responsible for more than 99,000 deaths each year in the United States alone. Patients that do survive infection are often faced with the burden of painful recovery periods and costly medical bills. Whether on the internet or in the news, there are countless publications pointing to the large and growing problem of HAIs in our communities.  With more than 1.7 million HAIs occurring each year1, thousands of survivors are sharing similar stories in the hopes of inducing changes to the hospital protocols needed to reduce HAI rates.

While the CDC estimates that the annual HAI costs in the US is $35-$45 billion, the true cost of HAIs is considerably larger when one includes the total socio-economic impacts. These can come in the form of loss of income, impact on families and businesses, cost of funerals, and rehabilitation etc.  With more than 99,000 Americans dying annually from HAIs, how does one adequately calculate the loss of social and economic contributions to society?

Ondine Biomedical is developing a number of Photodisinfection based products that are geared towards addressing a part of this $35-$45 billion public health problem. We believe that Photodisinfection’s proven ability to instantly destroy antibiotic resistant organisms and biofilms will play an important future role in the control of HAIs in our healthcare and extended care facilities.

1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

2. Scott RD. The Direct Medical Costs of Healthcare-Associated Infections in U.S. Hospitals and the Benefits of Prevention, 2009.

3. Lucado et al. Adult Hospital Stays with Infections Due To Medical Care, 2007. US Department of Health & Human Services:HCUP Statistical Brief #4 Aug 2010.

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4 Responses to “Healthcare-Associated Infections: A $35-$45 billion problem”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Leigh Slayden and La Vita Compounding . La Vita Compounding said: Healthcare-Associated Infections: A $35-$45 billion problem […]

  2. Julie Cluff says:

    It’s interesting how far ahead in terms of research and knowledge some countries are. I work in Canada, but trained as an RN in the UK. Last year the hospital where I work had a GI outbreak, and my unit was the only one not to close because I knew what to do. Prevention and education are key, particularly with visitors who seem to think that they don’t need to use sanitising gel.

  3. Valuable info. Lucky me I found your site by accident, and I’m shocked why this accident did not happen earlier! I bookmarked it.

  4. Madelene Pompi says:

    Staph infections can be a very painfull experience specially if you got the full infection within days.

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