Healthcare-acquired infections (HAIs) place an economic burden on healthcare systems around the world. A study from the Journal of Hospital Infection has now looked at exactly how much HAIs cost the healthcare system in Scotland.
An HAI or nosocomial infection is an infection that patients acquire during medical treatment. These chould be aquired in hospitals, clinics, outpatient practices, and nursing homes. According to the current literature in Germany , the exact definition for a nosocomial infection is: “An infection is called nosocomial if the infection day occurs on day 3 of the hospital stay at the earliest.”
For patients, HAIs represent one of the most common complications during treatment in a healthcare facility and can be serious—they can even result in death.
In addition to the risk they cause to people’s lives and health, HAIs place economic burdens on healthcare systems. Cost increase as people have to extend the length of their stay in healthcare facilities.
HAIs put a strain on Scottish healthcare system
In a recent, comprehensive study, researchers from Glasgow Caledonian University have investigated the specific costs of nosocomial infections in the Scottish healthcare system (National Health Service: NHS Scotland). For this purpose, the researchers examined data from 2018 and 2019, which were derived from the overarching ECONI study (Evaluation of Cost of Nosocomial Infection).
This study gives Scotland the first comprehensive assessment of the incidence, risks and costs of all types of HAI, enabling annual planning of infection prevention and control strategy in our hospitals locally and nationally.Prof. Jacqui Reilley, chef investigator
The first interesting finding of the work: in Scotland, the incidence of nosocomial infections is below the European average: at less than 1%. As a result, approximately 7,500 people suffer a nosocomial infection per year across the country.
The most common types of infections in the study were urinary tract infections, with 1,628 cases, and bloodstream infections, which occurred in an estimated 1,389 patients.
And it’s also worth looking at the costs associated with the occurrence of nosocomial infections. It shows, for example, that an additional annual cost of around €54 million (£46.4 million) to NHS Scotland.
Chief investigator, Prof Jacqui Reilly, said: “This study gives Scotland the first comprehensive assessment of the incidence, risks and costs of all types of HAI, enabling annual planning of infection prevention and control strategy in our hospitals locally and nationally.”
Incidentally, pneumonia costs the most, at over €15,000 (£13,024) per case—followed by common bloodstream infections (€10,500).
Hand hygiene protects against infections
The results of the Scottish study once again underscore the importance of infection prevention in minimizing patient likelihood on the one hand and reducing the economic burden on healthcare systems on the other.
National and international institutions including the World Health Organization (WHO) agree that hand hygiene is the single most important measure to effectively prevent HAIs. An important task for the future remains to further improve hand disinfection in healthcare facilities, an area in which there is much room for improvement. The study presented was published in the current issue (August 2021) of the Journal of Hospital Infection and is freely accessible.
Study: Manoukian, S., et al. “Bed-days and costs associated with the inpatient burden of healthcare-associated infection in the UK.” Journal of Hospital Infection 114 (2021): 43-50.
 Nationales Referenzzentrum für Surveillance von nosokomialen Infektionen, Robert Koch-Institut. Definitionen nosokomialer Infektionen für die Surveillance im Krankenhaus-InfektionsSurveillance-System (KISS-Definitionen), Berlin 2017