Staying safe in the hospital

(CONSUMER REPORTS) — We count on hospitals to make us well. But they can also be a breeding ground for serious infections.

The numbers are shocking. 650,000 patients develop an infection in the hospital and 75,000 die as a result, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Germs concentrate in hospitals and can be easily spread there. C. diff. and MRSA are two dangerous bacterial infections and are very difficult to treat.

Consumer Reports tracks hospital-infection records and says while some institutions have made good progress, serious problems remain. Which hospital you go to can make a difference. Consumer Reports’ new hospital ratings show some hospitals do a much better job of preventing some types of infections than others. Cleanliness is key. But patients can also take steps to keep themselves safe.

Ÿ Ask everyone who enters the room to wash their hands with soap and water. Hand sanitizer may not be enough to destroy some dangerous bacteria.

Ÿ If you have any type of infection, ask if you can postpone surgery. A weakened immune system increases your risk of a new infection.

Ÿ IVs and catheters can also lead to infections, so ask daily if they are still needed.

Ÿ And try to have a friend or family member be your advocate, especially at night and on weekends.

Consumer Reports hospital ratings are available for free at  CR.org/hospitalratings.

Complete ratings and recommendations on all kinds of products, including appliances, cars & trucks, and electronic gear, are available on Consumer Reports’ website. Subscribe to CR.org.

 

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