Healthcare-Associated Infections (HAI)

A healthcare-associated infection (HAI) is an infection that develops during, or soon after, receiving healthcare services or being in a healthcare setting. These settings include hospitals, clinics, doctor's offices, surgery centers, nursing homes, or home-care visits by a health professional. These infections are a serious problem, and many are preventable. On any given day, about one in 25 hospital patients has at least one healthcare-associated infection.

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Common healthcare-associated infections

Some major HAIs that are tracked include:

Central Line-Associated Bloodstream Infections

A central line is a long tube (catheter) that is put into a large vein in the chest or upper arm. They are used to put medicines, nutrients, or fluids into the patient's blood and to remove blood for laboratory testing.

Central lines are typically kept in place longer than a regular intravenous (IV) catheter. They are used for treatments of kidney disease (dialysis) or cancer (chemotherapy) and can be left in place even after discharge from the hospital.

Infections that occur with a central line are called Central Line-Associated Bloodstream Infections (CLABSI).

Surgical Site Infections

Infections that occur after surgery are called Surgical Site Infections (SSI).

How can I prevent an HAI?

Be informed, be empowered, be prepared!
  • Be an active member of your health care team—speak up!
  • Clean your hands. Washing hands with soap and water is the best way to get rid of germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based sanitizer. To wash your hands, rub your hands with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds. Key times to clean your hands are - after blowing your nose, after using the toilet, and before eating or touching food.
  • Ask all health care workers and visitors to clean their hands before touching you.
  • Know the signs and symptoms of infection.
  • Don't be afraid to ask questions.
  • Get smart about antibiotics. Ask if tests will be done to make sure the right antibiotic is prescribed.
  • If your family or friends have a cold or the flu, ask them to refrain from visiting you in the hospital until they are feeling better.

Resources for Patient Safety

Washington State HAI Law

Washington State law requires hospitals to report certain HAIs to the Department of Health.

Revised Code of Washington (RCW 43.70.056) and Washington Administrative Code (WAC 246-440-100) establishes HAI reporting requirements for hospitals licensed by the Department of Health.

Hospitals that are reimbursed for care by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) are required to report additional HAIs and patient safety measures to CMS and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Hospitals are required to report the following infections to the Washington State Department of Health:

Hospitals that are reimbursed for care by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) are required to report additional HAIs and patient safety measures to CMS and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.