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The high cost of healthcare will impact the U.S. economy more than any other issue in the immediate future, according to chief financial officers, finance directors and other executives interviewed in the Bank of America Merrill Lynch 2014 CFO Outlook survey. For the third consecutive year, survey respondents pointed to rising healthcare costs as their number one concern.

Corporate wellness programs and other employer initiatives have been instrumental in helping workers adopt healthier lifestyles and reduce their risk of disease. However, one of the leading threats to employee health can’t be solved through gym memberships or healthy meals. Each year, millions of Americans get dangerous infections while receiving medical care for something else. Tens of thousands of patients die and hundreds of thousands are hospitalized due to these healthcare-associated infections. As just one example, drug-resistant germs cause two million illnesses each year. The direct and indirect costs of healthcare-associated infections have been estimated as high as $45 billion a year in the United States alone.

Safe healthcare delivery is a key mission of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The agency’s experts work to solve outbreaks, collect healthcare quality data from hospitals and other facilities, set practice guidelines and discover new ways to defeat healthcare-associated infections. CDC educates healthcare providers, patients, caregivers and insurers about the role each stakeholder plays to ensure safe care. CDC also works with industry partners to bring forward innovative solutions for infection control and antibiotic resistance.

This issue of Business Pulse focuses on the growing problem of healthcare-associated infections, the business case for “Safe Healthcare” and what you can do to help protect your workforce.

Published February 2014