AHRQ Awards $34 Million to Expand Fight Against HAIs

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)s Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) announces the award of $34 million for projects focused on preventing one of the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States healthcare-associated infections (HAIs). This new funding will help improve the quality of care delivered to patients and expand the fight against HAIs in hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs), end-stage renal disease facilities and long-term care facilities.

Based on estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year there are nearly 2 million HAIs in hospitals, which contribute to almost 100,000 deaths. While there is a growing body of knowledge regarding the number of infections and methods to reduce those infections within hospitals, there is not enough information currently available on infections originating in other healthcare settings.

"We know that infections can occur in any healthcare setting," says Carolyn M. Clancy, MD, AHRQ's director. "With these new projects, we can apply what has worked in reducing infections in hospitals to other settings and ultimately help patients feel confident they are in safe hands, regardless of where they receive care."

For example, with the dramatic growth in surgery being performed in ambulatory surgical centers and a rise in the number of these surgery centers in the U.S. over the last two decades from 336 in 1985 to 5,047 in 2007 ensuring safe practices within these settings has become more critical, particularly since federal inspections have identified breaches in standard practices to prevent infections in more than 60 percent of ASCs. AHRQs new projects also focus on end-stage renal disease and long-term care facilities, because their more than 500,000 patients and more than 1.5 million residents, respectively, are particularly vulnerable to infections.

These awards are a part of a Department-wide effort to address HAIs. Funded projects will contribute to implementing the strategies outlined in the HHS Action Plan to Prevent Healthcare-Associated Infections. A broad array of partners across HHS, including AHRQ, CDC, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), and National Institutes of Health (NIH), have been working together to achieve the prevention goals in the Action Plan.

To maximize the impact of the HAI investment, AHRQ has collaborated with CDC, CMS and NIH to identify research gaps to improve HAI prevention. With this new funding, researchers will be able to address some of these gaps, learn why infections occur, find ways to prevent them from happening, improve antibiotic prescribing practices and delivery and enhance communication and teamwork among healthcare providers.

Preventing these infections is a national priority, and over the last several years AHRQ has demonstrated a sustained commitment to supporting this priority. From 2007 to 2009, AHRQ awarded more than $27 million for projects on the use of standardized procedures, including a checklist of proven safety practices based on CDC recommendations, staff training and tools for improving teamwork among health care providers. With the additional $34 million in funding announced today, AHRQ is significantly expanding this important work.

A complete list of institutions and projects funded in fiscal year 2010 under the $34 million announced today is available at http://www.ahrq.gov/qual/haify10.htm.

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