For some medical conditions hospitalization is genuinely necessary, but at times we also choose hospitals because it seems like the practical and convenient choice, especially if you live alone or if the patient needs care and rest that would be impossible at home. Yes, we regard hospitals as the safest of places, the kind of place where you can heal and recover. New reports and studies however, suggest that our great faith may be terribly misplaced.
The Biggest Risk Of Hospitalization
“Hospital acquired infection rates for ICU patients in India are estimated to be as high as 60%”
No, it’s not poorly trained or greedy doctors who prescribe unnecessary surgeries that are the biggest worry. After all, most health care providers are still most concerned with the wellbeing of their patients. The problem is actually a little more complicated involving hospital design and management itself.
According to Dhruv Khullar, M.D., a resident doctor at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School hospitals are actually a breeding ground for infection, while also increasing the risk of injury and mental health issues. His report followed up on the findings of numerous studies that point to a disturbing trend of hospital-acquired infections causing illness and morbidity in intensive care patients.
According to a World Health Organization (WHO) report, at any given time one in ten hospital patients will acquire a hospital infection. Around 30% of all ICU patients suffer from new infections because of hospitalization, with the reinfection rates in developing countries like India being as high as 60%.
Why Are Hospitals Making Us Sicker?
“Overcrowding adversely affects sleep & increases noise levels, also making patients less willing to share personal information that could determine the appropriate treatment”
Experts believe that the high rate of hospital infections can be attributed to overcrowding in hospitals, especially in general wards and the ICU. This adversely affects patients’ sleep and also exposes them to higher noise levels. In addition, patients are less inclined to share pertinent medical information with regard to symptoms or past conditions in the presence of other patients. This is an impediment to appropriate medical care.
As pointed out by experts like Dr. Khullar, hospitals would actually benefit from offering more private rooms at lower costs, as they’d be under less pressure, with fewer illnesses to treat.
“Studies show that sterile hospital environments actually delay recovery, while increasing the risk of falls”
When you walk into any hospital, you instantly notice the sterile and impersonal nature of the environment. While this is what we have come to expect from hospitals, research now suggests that such an environment is counterproductive for patients. Studies have clearly shown that patient recovery is faster when they have views of greenery, rather than sterile tiled walls.
When dealing with depression and other mental health disorders the effects of hospitalization are even more severe, as studies show that patients require less medication when their rooms are brighter and adorned with pictures of natural settings.
In addition to these problems, patients are also more prone to falls in hospitals because of poor lighting and slippery flooring. Moreover, nurses are often overworked and stretched thin, which means that they aren’t really available to provide all round care.
Aside from increasing private rooms and making the more accessible, hospitals need to invest more in greening of hospital premises, installation of better air filters, sound-proofing of rooms, and more natural lighting. Until hospitals do address these issues, take precautions before hospitalization, using hand sanitizers and minimizing contact with other patients to lower infection risk. It may also be wise to carry ear plugs and eye masks to ensure you get some much needed sleep.
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