Hospital-Acquired Infections: How to Reduce and Prevent HAIs

Hospital-Acquired Infections: How to Reduce and Prevent HAIs

Preventing healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) is crucial to ensuring patient safety and improving the quality of healthcare services. This blog post will discuss some definitions, key differences between healthcare-associated and hospital-acquired infections, and provide an overview of the most common types of HAIs. Additionally, we will explore evidence-based practices for preventing hospital-acquired infections and the role of healthcare professionals in reducing these infections.

What are HAIs?

Healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) are infections that patients acquire while receiving healthcare treatment for other conditions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), some of the most common HAIs include:

  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs) & Catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTIs)
  • Surgical site infections (SSIs)
  • Respiratory tract infections, like Ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP)
  • Central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSIs)
  • Clostridioides difficile (C. dif.) infections (CDIs)

These infections can lead to severe complications, prolonged hospital stays, and increased healthcare costs.

What Is the Difference Between Hospital-Acquired and Healthcare-Associated Infections?

Hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) are a subset of healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) that occur specifically in hospital settings. Healthcare-associated infections, on the other hand, can occur in any healthcare facility, including outpatient clinics, nursing homes, and rehabilitation centers. The key difference between the two lies in the location where the infection is acquired.

Evidence-Based Practices for Preventing HAIs

The CDC has outlined guidelines for preventing HAIs, emphasizing the importance of implementing evidence-based practices to reduce hospital-acquired infections. One example of some of these practices includes proper hand hygiene, which is the single most effective method for preventing HAIs. Healthcare professionals should follow proper handwashing techniques, using soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizers before and after patient contact and when moving between different patient care areas.

Strategies for preventing specific types of HAIs CAUTIs

To prevent catheter-associated urinary tract infections, healthcare professionals should:

  • Use catheters only when necessary and remove them as soon as possible.
  • Follow aseptic techniques during catheter insertion and maintenance.
  • Regularly assess the need for continued catheter use.


To prevent surgical site infections, healthcare professionals should:

  • Administer prophylactic antibiotics appropriately.
  • Maintain strict aseptic techniques during surgery.
  • Ensure proper preoperative skin preparation.


To prevent ventilator-associated pneumonia, healthcare professionals should:

  • Elevate the head of the patient's bed to 30-45 degrees.
  • Perform regular oral care.
  • Implement daily sedation vacations and spontaneous breathing trials.


To prevent central line-associated bloodstream infections, healthcare professionals should:

  • Use maximal sterile barrier precautions during central line insertion.
  • Select the optimal site for central line placement to minimize infection risk (for example, avoiding the femoral vein if possible).
  • Remove unnecessary central lines as soon as possible.


To prevent Clostridioides difficile infections, healthcare professionals should:

  • Implement contact precautions for patients with suspected or confirmed CDI.
  • Use soap and water for hand hygiene, as alcohol-based hand sanitizers are ineffective against C. difficile spores.
  • Ensure environmental cleaning and disinfection with an EPA-registered disinfectant effective against C. difficile spores.

By following these evidence-based practices for preventing hospital-acquired infections, healthcare professionals can significantly reduce the incidence of HAIs and improve patient outcomes.

Preventing HAIs is essential to ensuring patient safety and improving the overall quality of healthcare. By understanding the differences between hospital-acquired and healthcare-associated infections, implementing evidence-based practices, and following the CDC's guidelines, we can work together to reduce the burden of HAIs in our healthcare facilities.

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