In late November, Staff Writer Marty Stempniak profiled the work that University of Vermont Medical Center is doing to reduce health care-acquired infections. The 562-bed hospital, for instance, has seen a 77 percent drop in central line-associated bloodstream infections in its ICU.

UVMC isn't the only hospital making significant strides in moderating patient harm. According to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, hospitals nationwide cut CLABSIs 46 percent between 2008 and 2013. Hospitals also saw a 19 percent drop in surgical-site infections for 10 specific procedures.

"All hospitals are working to get to zero infections. While we are not yet there, today's CDC report shows the progress hospitals and health systems have made in reducing infections to improve patient care," says Nancy Foster, vice president of quality and patient safety at the American Hospital Association. "Reducing infections has been an integral part of the many hospital quality improvement efforts underway across the country. We continue to support comprehensive programs that effectively promote patient safety improvements, including reductions in HAIs."

The AHA's Health Research & Educational Trust has for the past few years been leading the charge on those efforts, primarily with the On the Comprehensive Unit-based Safety Program, which is aimed at helping hospitals to reduce urinary tract and blood stream infections. HRET's Hospital Engagement Network also had a focus on reducing patient harm from various HAIs.

While encouraged that hospitals in the aggregate showed progress in reducing infection rates, Lisa McGiffert, director of Consumers Union's Safe Patient Project, in a statement said that more work needs to be done to further drive down infection rates and meet targets laid out by Health & Human Services in 2013. She also lamented that the CDC report doesn’t offer hospital-specific data.

"The key is for every hospital to have rigorous infection control programs to protect patients and health care workers, and for health care facilities and others to work together to reduce the many types of infections that haven’t decreased enough," stated CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D.