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Preventing healthcare-associated infection: risks, healthcare systems and behaviour

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More than 177 000 potentially preventable healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) occur per annum in Australia with sizable attributable mortality. Organizational systems to protect against HAI in hospitals in Australia are relatively poorly developed. Awareness and practice of infection control by medical and other healthcare staff are often poor. These lapses in practice create significant risk for patients and staff from HAI. Excessive patient exposure to antimicrobials is another key factor in the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and Clostridium difficile infection. Physicians must ensure that their interactions with patients are safe from the infection prevention standpoint. The critical preventative practice is hand hygiene in accord with the World Health Organization 5 moments model. Improving the use of antimicrobials, asepsis and immunization also has great importance. Hospitals should measure and feed back HAI rates to clinical teams. Physicians as leaders, role models and educators play an important part in promoting adherence to safe practices by other staff and students. They are also potentially effective system engineers who can embed safer practices in all elements of patient care and promote essential structural and organizational change. Patients and the public in general are becoming increasingly aware of the risk of infection when entering a hospital and expect their carers to adhere to safe practice. Poor infection control practice will be regarded in a negative light by patients and their families, regardless of any other manifest skills of the practitioner.

Keywords: antibiotic stewardship; hand hygiene; healthcare-associated infection; patient safety; quality improvement; risk management

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2009-09-01

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