Consumer and Patient Information

This page contains a variety of resources for patients, family members, and patient advocates to protect themselves from getting infections, to get fact sheets and educational guides on several HAIs and infection prevention related topics, to learn more about nonprofit organizations and national campaigns dedicated to consumers and HAI prevention, and to help choose a healthcare provider.

Ways for Patients and Family Members to Prevent Infection

Healthcare-associated infections require multiple approaches for prevention. However, everyone can reduce the risk of getting a healthcare-associated infection, and reduce the risk of infecting others, by taking the following steps:

1. Keep hands clean.

  • Perform hand hygiene, which means washing your hands regularly with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand rub.  Learn the specific times when you should only use soap and water.
  • Make sure that healthcare providers clean their hands too.  Doctors, nurses, dentists, and other people who care for you come into contact with lots of bacteria and viruses.  So before they treat you, politely ask them if they have cleaned their hands.
    • Don’t be afraid to ask care providers if they should wear gloves, especially if they will be performing tasks such as taking blood or touching wounds or other body openings.
  • Remind your visitors to clean their hands before and after their visit and throughout their visit, as appropriate.

2. Understand your care (or your loved ones’ care).

  • Ask your healthcare provider to explain the condition or procedure carefully, as well as any possible complications.
  • Ask your healthcare provider what specific steps he/she takes to prevent infections as well as what you can do to prevent infections before, during, and after your visit as it applies to your care.

3. Be a good visitor.

  • This includes staying home if you are sick, following special precautions if necessary (such as wearing a mask or other protective clothing), checking first before bringing food, flowers, or young visitors, and sneezing and coughing into your elbow, not your hand.

4. Protect your skin.

  • It is important to take good care of your skin because it’s the body’s first line of defense against infection.
  • If you have wounds or cuts, make sure the bandages are changed regularly, and follow your healthcare provider’s instructions on proper care of the wound.

5. If you have a drain or catheter (a tube that can be inserted into a body cavity, duct, or vessel):

  • Ask your doctor or other healthcare provider to explain why you need the catheter or drain and what you should do to avoid infection.
  • Follow instructions for the care of the catheter or drain to keep it working as it should and to keep it clean and free of germs.
  • Check the catheter or drain often.  If the bandage becomes wet or dirty, or the catheter or drain falls out, tell your healthcare provider.
  • Work with your healthcare provider to make sure that the catheter or drain is removed as soon as it is no longer medically needed.

6. Do not share personal items.

  • Avoid sharing personal items such as towels, washcloths, razors, clothing, blood glucose monitors, etc. with others because people may not always show symptoms if they are carrying infectious germs.

7. Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze and encourage others to do the same.

  • When you sneeze or cough, the germs can travel 3 feet or more!
  • Use a tissue and perform hand hygiene every time after coughing or sneezing.
  • No tissue? Cover your mouth and nose with the bend of your elbow. If you use your hands, clean them right away.

8. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth as much as possible. Germs spread that way.

9. If you are sick, avoid close contact with others.

  • Stay home.  Generally, people should stay home from work or school until at least 24 hours after they no longer have a fever (without the use of fever-reducing medicines such as acetaminophen).
  • Don’t shake hands or touch others.  Increase the number of times you perform hand hygiene.
  • When you visit a healthcare provider, call ahead and let them know you are ill. Healthcare providers might ask you to take extra precautions (such as wearing a mask) before entering the facility and while you are in the waiting room to further protect yourself and others.

10. Get shots to avoid disease and prevent the spread of infection.

  • Know which shots are taken every year (like the flu shot) and which provide long-term immunity.
  • Make sure you are up-to-date on your vaccinations by checking with your healthcare provider.

11. Choose a healthcare facility that is licensed by the Virginia Department of Health and accredited by national healthcare organizations.


Patient Education Guides / Fact Sheets

  • VDH-developed fact sheets (FAQs) for patients, family members, and visitors
    • General settings
    • Long-term care settings (nursing homes and assisted living facilities) 
  • Indiana State Department of Health HAI Prevention Educational Module: What are Healthcare-Associated Infections? – interactive online course for patients, caregivers, and family members introducing what HAIs are and how to prevent them
  • SHEA (Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America) – provides patient education guides on seven common HAIs including: surgical site infection (SSI), central line-associated bloodstream infection (CLABSI), catheter-associated urinary tract infection (CAUTI), ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP), Clostridium difficile infection (CDI), methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE).
  • Tips for Preventing Infection Following Surgery – simple tips for patients and family members to follow after surgery and before leaving the healthcare facility to help lower the risk of infection.


Patient Advocacy Resources

  • National campaigns/organizations
    • AHRQ (Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality)
    • APIC (Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology)
    • CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
    • HHS (Department of Health and Human Services)
      • Do the “WAVE” – campaign that encourages healthcare consumers to Wash or clean hands, Ask healthcare providers questions, Vaccinate, and Ensure safety of medical equipment.
      • Partnering to Heal– computer-based, video-simulation training program on infection control practices that highlights the importance of effective communication and ideas for creating a “culture of safety” in healthcare facilities to keep patients from getting sicker.
    • The Joint Commission
      • Speak Up – campaign that urges patients to take a role in preventing health care errors by becoming active, involved, and informed participants on the health care team.  Features brochures, posters, and videos on a variety of patient safety topics. Some products are tailored to the specific healthcare setting (e.g., hospital, ambulatory care, long-term care, home health, etc.)
    • VA (Department of Veterans Affairs)
      • Infection: Don’t Pass It On – campaign to involve VA staff, Veterans, their families and visitors in preventing the transmission of infection.
  • Nonprofit organizations
    • CDC Foundation – connects the CDC with private-sector organizations and individuals to build public health programs to improve health and safety.
      • February 2014 issue of Business Pulse focuses on safe healthcare and HAI prevention. Discusses how projects and resources from the CDC and states can help safeguard businesses and employees from infections and lower business costs.
      • Infographic on safe healthcare
    • Consumers Advancing Patient Safety (CAPS) – a consumer-led, nonprofit organization formed to be a collective voice for individuals, families, and healers who wish to prevent harm in healthcare encounters. Provides free access to resources, tools and education materials, and consumer engagement toolkits.
    • Empowered Patient Coalition – an organization created by patient advocates to provide information and education to support patient empowerment and patient safety efforts.
    • National Patient Safety Foundation – organization dedicated to improving the safety of care provided to patients.
    • Safe Care Campaign – an organization created to help educate patients about how they may help prevent infection while receiving medical care.
    • Safe Patient Project – a campaign of Consumers Union that seeks to eliminate medical harm in the health care system through public disclosure of health care outcomes and information about medical care providers.


Resources for Choosing a Provider

  • Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Guide to Choosing a Hospital – a booklet that explains steps to find and compare hospitals, why hospital quality is important, and provides information about Medicare and hospital stays
  • Consumers Union – a testing and information organization serving only consumers.  Publishes Consumer Reports magazine, which has featured articles on HAIs including state-specific infection data.
  • Dialysis Compare – a searchable database of dialysis providers that permits the user to compare facilities on a variety of quality measures and other facility characteristics.
  • Hospital Compare – a searchable database of hospital providers that permits the user to compare facilities on a variety of quality measures, including hospital-acquired conditions and serious complications and deaths.
  • The Leapfrog Group – a resource that presents data from the Leapfrog Hospital Survey, a voluntary survey of hospitals, that permits the user to compare facilities by overall patient safety ratings or by safety of selected procedures
  • Nursing Home Compare – a searchable database of Medicare and Medicaid-certified nursing homes that permits the user to compare facilities on a variety of quality measures and other facility characteristics.
  • Virginia Department of Health Healthcare-Associated Infections (HAIs) Central Line-Associated Bloodstream Infection Reports
  • Virginia Health Information – a nonprofit, health data organization that develops and implements health data projects to supply useful information to consumers and purchasers of healthcare, health plans, and healthcare facilities. Provides resources on cost, quality, and efficiency of healthcare facilities in Virginia. Also contains consumer guides for various levels of care. Serves as a Patient Safety Organization.