From the Director

Feature Story

Photograph of AHRQ's Director: Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D.

Sick hospitalized patients can be further sickened by healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) they acquire during their hospital stay. At any given time, about one in every 20 inpatients has an infection related to their hospital care. Hospital-acquired HAIs alone are responsible for billions of dollars in preventable health care expenditures annually, according to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). In fact, HAIs like Clostridium difficile are among the leading causes of preventable death in the United States. Our Agency found that nearly 1 percent of all hospital stays in 2009 alone involved C. difficile infections.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality plays an important role in the Federal effort to prevent and reduce all types of HAIs as called for by the HHS National Action Plan to Prevent Healthcare-Associated Infections: Roadmap to Elimination (http://www.hhs.gov/ash/initiatives/hai/actionplan). Our Agency is developing a wealth of practical, evidence-based tools and resources to help health care facilities reduce HAIs like the "Toolkit for Reduction of Clostridium difficile Infections Through Antimcrobial Stewardship" described in the cover story.

This toolkit helps hospitals identify and target certain antibiotics that are linked to C. difficile infections and improve antibiotic prescribing. All of the hospitals that put in place elements of an antibiotic stewardship program aimed at C. difficile decreased the use of at least one targeted antibiotic within their facility. These successes and the strategies and resources provided by the toolkit make me optimistic that hospitals will be able to reduce C. difficile infections.

Carolyn Clancy, M.D.

Page last reviewed February 2013
Internet Citation: From the Director: Feature Story. February 2013. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/news/newsletters/research-activities/13feb/0213RA2.html