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Surveillance of healthcare-associated infections - definition

Last modified at 4/21/2016 8:45 PM by Vladimir Prikazsky

The Healthcare Associated Infections (HAI) surveillance is an ongoing, systematic collection, analysis, and interpretation of healthcare infection data essential to the planning, implementation, and evaluation of practice in healthcare infection prevention and control, closely integrated with the timely dissemination of these data to those who need to know. 

Purposes of surveillance:

  • obtain “baseline” HAI rates and monitor trends;
  • identify problems e.g. outbreaks, increasing infection rates;
  • monitor quality of infection control and antimicrobial stewardship practices;
  • evaluate control interventions;
  • educate health-care providers;
  • inform  research priorities;
  • satisfy regulatory / accreditation requirements;
  • to interact with audit cycles (also called process surveillance);
  • compare HAI rates within/between healthcare institutions;
  • much of the above will ultimately produce data which can inform the processes needed to improve patient outcomes.

Essential elements of surveillance:

  1. assess the population;
  2. select the event or process to survey;
  3. choose the surveillance methods keeping in mind the need for risk adjustment of data;
  4. monitor for the event or process;
  5. apply surveillance definitions during monitoring;
  6. calculate rates and analyze surveillance findings;
  7. analyse surveillance data;
  8. report and use surveillance information.

In this context an European-wide surveillance networks has an added value to the Member States by strengthening and supporting the national surveillance systems and by coordinating the harmonisation of EU-wide surveillance so that comparable data between countries will be available.

The ECDC and the competent bodies for surveillance have developed the objectives for the future surveillance at the European Union level. Objectives are formulated with respect to general surveillance, as well as disease specific surveillance and have been agreed by all the Member States. These objectives serve to guide the discussion on the future plans and development of each of the disease specific surveillance networks in the European Union.

Link to European IC/HH Core Competencies

Area 3. Surveillance and investigation of healthcare associated infection (HAI)


Lee TB, Montgomery OG, Marx J, Olmsted RN, Scheckler, WE. Recommended practices for surveillance 2007;35(7):427-440

CDC Outline For Healthcare-Associated Infections Surveillance, 2006

ECDC. Surveillance of communicable diseases in the European Union. A long-term strategy 2008-2013