The vast majority of patients who have access to healthcare today are restored to health. However, some will suffer unintended consequences of care, such as healthcare-associated infections (HAIs). HAIs can occur in all healthcare settings, including hospitals, surgical centers, ambulatory outpatient clinics, and in long-term care facilities.

The health care system and patient populations in the United States have changed substantially over the past several decades. According to an American Hospital Association report, there were 31,811,673 hospital admissions in 2005, with an average length of stay of 6 days, down from 7.3 days in 1980.1 As the length of stay in these facilities decreases, those patients remaining in acute care facilities are likely to be those requiring extensive medical interventions, and are therefore at high risk for health care–associated infections (HAIs).