Study Shows Home Health Care Poses Increased Infection Risk

Americans receiving home health care (HHC) have an increased risk for infection, a recent study from Columbia University School of Nursing found.

“The prevalence of infections and patient risk factors in home health care: A systematic review,” published in American Journal of Infection Control last month, found that unsterile living conditions and untrained caregivers contribute to infections in home health settings. 

Infection rates found in the analysis varied widely, ranging from about 5% to more than 80%. In general, patients are at greater risk when they have tubes to provide nutrition or help with urination, results show.


“Patients shouldn’t have to choose between safety and receiving care in the comfort of their own homes,” says lead study author Jingjing Shang, PhD, assistant professor at Columbia Nursing in a news release.

Each year, an estimated 12 million Americans receive care from more than 33,000 home health providers in the U.S., where the annual tab for home health services exceeds $72 billion, the study reports.

“The stakes are already high, and they’re getting higher all the time, as our population keeps aging and more and more patients receive care outside of an institutional setting,” Shang says.


Results reflect 25 studies. The identified risk factors were limited by small sample sizes and other methodologic flaws, the study notes.

“Establishing a surveillance system for HHC infections, identifying patients at high risk for infections, tailoring HHC and patient education based on patient living conditions, and facilitating communication between different health care facilities will enhance infection control in HHC settings,” researchers suggest to combat infection in HHC settings.

The study can be accessed here

Written by Cassandra Dowell