Healthcare Associated Infections (HAIs)

HAIs are infections people can develop as a result of receiving medical care.  HAIs can happen in any healthcare facility, including hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, hemodialysis facilities, and long-term care facilities. A wide variety of bacteria, fungi, viruses, or other, less common pathogens can cause HAIs.

The COVID-19 pandemic has proven challenging nationally for overall healthcare infrastructure. The impact on HAIs showed a national increase in HAI incidence in 2020, based on CDC National Healthcare Safety Network data. These data highlight the need to return to conventional infection prevention and control practices and build resiliency in these programs to prepare for and withstand future pandemics. Additional information is available at CDC HAIs.

 


Infection Control Assessment & Response (ICAR) Unit

About ICAR 

The ICAR Unit is part of the Infection Control, Healthcare, & Environmental Epidemiology Section within the Communicable Disease Service at the New Jersey Department of Health. The team comprises subject matter experts specializing in the prevention and containment of healthcare-associated infections with an emphasis on patient/resident and healthcare personnel safety and quality improvement. This team provides infection prevention and control-focused assessments and consultation to various healthcare facilities, including acute care, long-term care, hemodialysis, and other outpatient settings.  

ICAR Prevention Assessments

We are seeking to partner with healthcare facilities of all types to participate in a non-regulatory assessment of their infection prevention program and practices. The ICAR prevention assessment is a collaboration between the facility team members and public health to improve infection prevention practices. This collaboration will have a positive impact on quality improvement efforts and infection prevention and control supporting better patient outcomes and safer work environments.

icar Flyer

During the assessment, the team will:

  • Provide infection prevention self-assessment tools and resources
  • Facilitate discussions with participants to assess infection prevention practices and program activities using standardized tools
  • Detect infection prevention gaps through remote or on-site assessment
  • Stratify data to determine where prevention needs might be the greatest
  • Share evidenced-based best practices identified nationally and locally
  • Bolster outbreak preparedness and response
  • Coordinate a post-assessment follow-up to provide additional resources

Facilities interested in assessing their infection prevention programs and partnering with the ICAR Team should review the General Guide to an ICAR Prevention Assessment by clicking here, and the ICAR Prevention Assessment Frequently Asked Questions by clicking here.

ICAR Prevention Assessment Tools

Regardless of your facility’s active participation in a voluntary ICAR assessment, NJDOH recommends that all healthcare facilities review the appropriate ICAR assessment tool and perform a self-assessment for internal performance and quality improvement. The assessment tool can assist your facility in a systematic review of your various infection prevention and control policies and procedures. 

Acute Care (e.g., general hospital, specialty hospital, long-term acute care hospital, comprehensive rehabilitation hospital)

Long-term Care (e.g., nursing home, assisted living, short-term skilled nursing, behavioral health, group homes)

Hemodialysis (e.g., facilities that offer inpatient or outpatient hemodialysis services)

Outpatient (e.g., ambulatory surgical center, urgent care, private practice, federally qualified health center, program of all-inclusive care for the elderly, adult medical daycare)

 

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Acute Care

HAIs are a significant threat to patient safety, yet frequently they are preventable. Together with healthcare and public health partners, the CDC brings increased attention to HAI prevention. Hospitals managing surges of patients with COVID-19 might be vulnerable to outbreaks of multidrug-resistant organism (MDRO) infections. Maintaining infection prevention and control best practices to the extent possible could mitigate spread. To learn more refer to CDC MMWR Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report 2020;69:1827–1831.

Although significant progress has been made to prevent some infection types, much work remains. On any given day, about one in 31 hospital patients have at least one HAI^. The CDC HAI Progress Report is a snapshot of how each state and the country are eliminating HAIs. CDC, states, healthcare facilities, and other patient safety organizations use this data to identify problem areas, measure the progress of prevention efforts, and ultimately eliminate HAIs. Click here for more information on New Jersey reporting laws and the annual Hospital Performance Reports. Click here for more information from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on HAI prevention.

^Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HAI Data. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://www.cdc.gov/hai/data/index.html

 

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Long-term Care

imageLong-term care (LTC) facilities provide medical and non-medical services to people with chronic diseases, disabilities, or transitional care needs. These settings may include but are not limited to nursing homes, skilled nursing, assisted living, hospice, and palliative care.

There are many special considerations for infection prevention in the LTC setting. An increasing number of individuals in the United States are receiving care in LTC facilities. These residents have growing medical complexity and care needs and increasing exposure to devices and antibiotics.

Patients/residents may transfer in and out of healthcare facilities with some frequency, so appropriate communication of medical history, including antibiotic use, devices, colonization with novel or targeted organisms, active infection, and risk factors, is critical. The New Jersey Universal Transfer form can be downloaded here.

The scientific literature on HAI prevalence and evidence-based prevention practices in these settings is limited. No standardized system for HAI surveillance has been adopted nationally. McGeer Criteria are commonly used; however, NJ LTC facilities are required to begin reporting to CDC National Health and Safety Network, commonly referred to as NHSN. Refer to NJ Bill A4478 (approved P.L. 2021) Chapter 457 - C.26:2H-46.3 Review of reporting requirements; standardization, consolidation of reporting requirements https://pub.njleg.state.nj.us/Bills/2020/PL21/457_.PDF.

For more information from CDC on LTC HAI prevention and more, click here.

 

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Hemodialysis

Patients who undergo hemodialysis have an increased risk of getting an HAI. Hemodialysis patients are at a higher risk for infection because the process of hemodialysis requires frequent aCenters for Disease Control and Prevention's Dialysis Infection Prevention Tools.ccess to the bloodstream through a catheter or insertion of needles. Bloodborne pathogens, such as Hepatitis B and C viruses, are of particular concern in the hemodialysis setting. These viruses and other bacteria may live on surfaces like treatment chairs and machines and can be spread even with no visible blood or soil when not properly cleaned and disinfected. Understanding and implementing basic infection prevention and control in routine practice is imperative to reducing HAIs in all healthcare settings.

The CDC offers dialysis safety resources, including infection prevention tools explicitly intended for hemodialysis centers, available here.

 

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Outpatient

Outpatient Care ProvidersOutpatient facilities provide a wide variety of healthcare services without an overnight stay. These settings may include but are not limited to physician offices, urgent care centers, ambulatory surgical centers, cancer clinics, imaging centers, endoscopy clinics, and public health clinics.

In the past, the risk of acquiring an HAI in the outpatient setting remained low as patients were generally healthier, visits were brief, procedures were less invasive, and the risk of environmental contamination was low. However, patients with a higher acuity are now cared for more often in the outpatient setting because of the increasing shift of care from hospital to outpatient settings.

For more information on outpatient settings, click here.

 

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Last Reviewed: 6/8/2022