Study says hospital-acquired infections can make patients ‘feel like lepers’

Healthcare-associated infections such as MRSA cause more than just physical distress for patients, according to a recent analysis.

The study, published in the American Journal of Infection Control, a journal of the Association of Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, found many patients had emotional responses to diagnoses of hospital acquired infections, including “feeling dirty,” “having the plague” or “feeling like a leper.”

Researchers at Glasgow Caledonian University in Scotland conducted a meta-synthesis of qualitative research, according to a news release on the study.

They looked at studies from five different countries addressing five common types of hospital acquired infections focusing on patient experiences of both colonization and infection from bacteria that commonly cause hospital acquired infections, the news release stated.

Study authors hope this research will encourage healthcare providers to look beyond just the medical treatment of hospital acquired infections and factor in the emotional experiences of patients diagnosed with such infections.

Providers also should consider the way patients feel about other people’s responses to the infection, including healthcare workers, researchers said.

Although emotional responses varied based on the type of infection, one commonality persisted — fearing they might transmit their infection to others, according to the study.

Patients also expressed worry over working in certain professions for fear they might transmit the infection to coworkers.

“Having a hospital acquired infection is a significant event in the patient’s care journey and subsequent life that is influenced by biology, society and context,” Kay Currie, PhD, the paper’s lead author said in the news release. “Understanding the patient experience can help healthcare practitioners interact and respond in a constructive way, providing more effective support during this challenging time in a patient’s healthcare experience.”

Hospital acquired infections are declining

The good news is hospital acquired infections are declining, according to recent data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The group reported in January the rate of such infections went down 13% between 2014 and 2017.

The reduction saved providers $7.7 billion and prevented 20,500 hospital deaths, according to a Jan. 29 article in Modern Healthcare.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services set a goal of reducing hospital acquired conditions by 20% from 2014 to 2019, which could result in 53,000 fewer deaths and save $19.1 billion in hospital costs, Modern Healthcare reported.

“As one in every 25 hospitalized patients in the United States is diagnosed with a hospital acquired infection, it is critical to understand the long-lasting impact of such infections not just from a physical perspective, but also from a social and emotional perspective,” 2018 APIC President Janet Haas, PhD, RN, CIC, FSHEA, FAPIC, said in the APIC news release.

Other key findings researchers found include patients with healthcare associated infections having concerns about their interactions with healthcare providers. Patients reported being excluded from rehabilitation classes or being asked to wait until the end of clinic appointments to be seen.

“This qualitative review provides valuable insight into the patient perspective and how healthcare professionals can more effectively interact with their patients to enhance recovery …read more

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