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J Hosp Infect. 2009 May;72(1):1-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jhin.2009.01.024. Epub 2009 Mar 12.

Patients and the public: knowledge, sources of information and perceptions about healthcare-associated infection.

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  • 1City University, London, UK.


Statutory bodies provide information about healthcare-associated infection (HCAI) in the UK. Information is also available on National Health Service trust websites. Opinion polls demonstrate that fear of developing HCAI, especially methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is the single greatest concern of people contemplating healthcare. We undertook a literature review to determine lay knowledge of HCAI, sources of information and perceptions of the risks. Twenty-two studies met the inclusion criteria. Of these, nine explored knowledge and perceptions as the primary research aim. The remainder consisted of a heterogeneous assortment of works comparing the knowledge and perceptions of different groups, their experiences of being infected or colonised and/or isolated. In all accounts, lay people expressed anxiety about the risks and consequences of HCAI. The most frequently reported source was the media, which has been blamed for sensationalist and inaccurate accounts. Lay people do not appear to access credible sources of information, or, if they do access them, are unable to understand their messages. Organisations that provide patient-focused information about HCAI are generic in scope, so that obtaining specific information may take time and effort to locate. Research is necessary to explore the acceptability, comprehensibility and accessibility of lay sources of information about HCAI and to find ways of readjusting risk perceptions to realistic levels in order to provide sensible levels of reassurance to those about to undergo healthcare.

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