Most of us assume that hospitals are the safest healing environments to get healthy, not sick. Sadly, hospitals are actually responsible for making us sick. In fact, recent research points to preventable hospital errors as the third leading cause of deaths in the U.S.
Did you know on average of one out of every five patients who leave US hospitals are readmitted within a month after being discharged?
Our supposed sterile ‘health havens’ have an annual average of 648,000 patients who develop infections during a hospital stay. In fact, there are 75,000 inpatient hospital deaths annually from these infections, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
With over 200 people dying in hospitals in the US daily, healthcare acquired infections are responsible for killing twice the amount of people who die each year from car crashes.
Overprescription of antibiotics is killing us
The same antibiotic medications that work to fight infections are responsible for making hospitals the hotspots of infection.
An antibiotic will kill the bacteria susceptible to the drug, but also leaves microbes behind that are resistant to that distinct antibiotic. So, the more antibiotics a person takes, the more microbes build up in the body.
The CDC now estimates that on any given day one in 25 patients in the U.S. has at least one healthcare-acquired infection (HAI).
As many as 11.4 million antibiotic prescriptions written each year for children and teens may be unnecessary, according to a study published online in 2015. In fact, the CDC estimates that up to half of all antibiotics used in the country are prescribed unnecessarily or used inappropriately.
What are superbugs and super germs and how are they making us sick?
Super germs or superbugs, which are are drug-resistant, human-killing microbes are the leading cause of the deadly infections due to inappropriate overuse of antibiotics.
Super Germs cause 1 out of 7 infections caught in general U.S. hospitals, and 1 in 4 in specialized long-term hospitals, according to new research by the CDC.
The most common superbug in hospitals that you may be familiar with is MRSA (MUR’-suh aka a staff infection).
Who’s paying for these medical mistakes and sickness from superbugs?
Right now, extra healthcare costs that are directly a result of inpatient hospital care are put on patients and their families.
Saludmovil’s Dr. Mosquera feels hospitals should be held financially responsible, covering all costs for treating infections patients pick up during their stay and even costs incurred after discharge.
Smaller is better for healthcare facilities
It was found that small regional hospitals and smaller community hospitals earned the best ratings. Only 105 out of the 3,000 hospitals surveyed achieved good ratings.
What you should look for in hospitals to stay healthy
In summary, Dr. Mosquera notes good hospitals often focus on the basics:
- Using antibiotics wisely and not overprescribing
- Keeping facilities clean
- Hospital Employees consistently follow established protocols and records
- Smaller clinics and hospitals tends to be better
Consumer Report’s most recent ratings of more than 3,000 U.S hospitals show which ones are failing to protect their patients from these deadly infections. The report shows that only a small fraction of the hospitals surveyed received high ratings.
Many health institutions that are nationally ranked and well known did not get good ratings when it comes to these super bacteria and hospital acquired infections.
To view the complete list of Consumer Reports’ hospital ratings click here.
What else can I do to stay safe during a hospital stay?
“To patients, my recommendations are to always question the use of antibiotics, insist in a clean hospital room and ask what their rates of resistant infections are in the last 12 to 18 months. Including, how many infections, what types and how many deaths. It is also useful to look at the bilingual Consumer Reports’ rating center as part of the Slam Superbugs campaign,” advises Integrative Medicine expert, Dr. Joseph Mosquera.
Preventative protections you can take as an inpatient
Don’t hesitate as a patient to take steps to protect yourself by asking doctors, visitors and anyone who enters their room to washing their hands before saying hello and wiping down all high-touch surfaces, including bed rails, bed tables, call buttons, and the TV remote control with bleach wipes.
How can we reduce hospital error and save lives?
Dr. Mosquera notes that in order to lower these scary statistics, hospitals need to accurately report how many infections patients get in that given facility.
The government could validate these reports. Prompt reporting to patients as well as the state federal authorities should also be the norm from hospitals when disclosing resistant infections.
It’s important as a patient to understand the complex problem of antibiotic resistance today in order to see the potentially catastrophic consequences of inaction.