3 Strategic Risks of HAIs

By Chris Hermann

Healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) cause preventable patient suffering and death and are expensive (click to read The Hidden Costs of HAIs). They’re also risky for three strategic reasons that many hospital executives haven’t considered:

    1. HCAHPS Scores. The Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems survey asks a variety of questions, including whether or not the patient would recommend the hospital to their friends or family. How happy do you think patients who get diff are? Patients are also asked to rate the hospital on a scale of 1 – 10. It’s safe to assume that a patient who catches an HAI will rate the hospital lower than a patient who goes home healthy. With one out of 20 patients having an HAI on any given day[1], that’s got to have a large, negative effect on HCAHPS scores. Decreasing infections should lead to an increase in scores and an overall more positive patient experience.


    1. Malpractice Risk. Malpractice insurance is a huge expense for physicians and hospitals. Many look at it as a “cost of doing business,” but it doesn’t have to be that way. Coverage will always be necessary, but insurance premiums – as well as costly litigation and (in most cases) settlements – can be reduced by decreasing HAIs. Fewer infections leads to fewer lawsuits.


    1. Hospital Reputation. When members of a local community talk about its hospitals, what do they say? When the newspaper reports on the hospitals in its coverage area, what does it write about? Healthcare is becoming consumerized at an increasing rate. Patients that have a choice in their own care will choose the hospital that has the best reputation, both in terms of word of mouth from their friends and journalistic coverage from their local media. Lower infection rates lead to a better reputation and more patients.


There’s a real domino effect with HAIs. There are direct costs (reimbursement and readmission penalties, HAC list penalties) as well as indirect costs (length of stay and operational throughput, staff time to put on PPE, employee health and absenteeism). There’s patient satisfaction and the patient experience. And those lead to strategic risks such as HCAHPS scores, malpractice risk and hospital reputation. Not to mention the patient suffering and deaths that may have been preventable. All in all, there’s a longer list of reasons to do everything possible to reduce HAIs than most hospital administrators probably realize.

If you’d like to explore how our system typically doubles hand hygiene performance rates and reduces HAIs by up to 75-80%, here’s a brief video about how it works. Or here’s a white paper on How the New Joint Commission Hand Hygiene Standards Could Impact Your Hospital.

[1] https://www.cdc.gov/hai/surveillance/index.html


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