Hawaii: Reducing Patient Infections in Healthcare Settings

A healthcare-associated infection (HAI) is an infection a patient can get after a medical procedure, surgery, or hospital visit. About 1 in 20 US hospital patients gets an HAI. HAIs are dangerous to the patient and expensive to treat, but hospitals can take steps to prevent them. In 2009, the US government required all states to develop an action plan to prevent, reduce, and stop the spread of HAIs. This federal requirement included reporting all HAI cases to CDC’s National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN). In 2010, the Hawaii Department of Health used Preventive Health and Health Services (PHHS) Block Grant funds to start a new HAI tracking and prevention program.

In 2010, only 5 of Hawaii’s 15 hospitals were voluntarily tracking the number and type of HAIs occurring in their facilities. Getting more hospitals to track these infections was an important step to understanding how serious a problem HAIs were and what to do about them. In 2011, Hawaii passed a law requiring hospitals and healthcare facilities to increase patient safety and report all HAI cases to NHSN. With staff and technical assistance funded through the PHHS Block Grant, Hawaii’s health department organized an advisory group to aid those facilities that needed new tracking systems. As reporting requirements take effect, the department helps ensure that all healthcare facilities are in compliance. In 2014, the department assisted four hospitals in identifying and correcting major problems in reporting their data.

Hospitals and other facilities in Hawaii needed more staff trained to prevent HAIs. In 2014, the PHHS Block Grant supported additional HAI prevention training opportunities, including a webinar, in-person workshops for health workers at nursing homes and hospitals, and sessions at statewide conferences.

Hawaii’s work to increase patient safety has been a success. From 2010 to 2014, the number of HAIs in Hawaii decreased by more than 80%. In the case of one common type of HAI called “central line-associated bloodstream infections,” this decrease meant that about 64 people who would have otherwise gotten an infection did not get one. Eliminating those 64 infections potentially saved 16 lives and over $1 million in medical costs. Currently, Hawaii’s HAI rates are well below the national average.

Story year: 2015

Photo: Nurse and a patient

A nurse follows the new guidelines to reduce healthcare-associated infections

Check out previous PHHS Block Grant success stories from Hawaii

Page last reviewed: April 17, 2018