On any given day, one in 31 hospital patients will battle a healthcare-associated infection (HAI), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). To put that into perspective, approximately 1.7 million Americans develop infections from their stay in a hospital each year, and of those, nearly 100,000 are fatal. However, these numbers could be greatly reduced as these infections are not only treatable but preventable as well.
Environmental Services (EVS) teams play a critical role in a hospital’s infection control efforts. Supported by hospital administrators and Infection Prevention (IP) leaders, EVS groups are responsible for deploying infection prevention measures that serve as a first line of defense against the spread of disease.
To decrease patients’ risk of exposure to illnesses and infections, EVS teams need to ensure that their infection control methods are both efficient, taking less time and fewer resources to deploy, and effective at killing germs and reducing instances of HAIs. They need to be aware of the methods used to stop infections from spreading and the tactics that they can use to enhance their IP efforts.
4 Tips for Efficient and Effective Infection Prevention
Environmental Services leaders and hospital administrators can take several steps to enhance their infection prevention efforts. Investing in the right resources, bundling evidence-based infection prevention methods, creating a solid infection control plan, and providing support for all hospital workers are key strategies in decreasing instances of HAIs in a facility.
Invest in the Right Resources
Nothing can replace the use of hot water, antibacterial soap, and disinfectants. Yet a simple cleaning is often insufficient when it comes to preventing HAIs. A 2017 study published in the American Journal of Infection Control revealed that as many as 50 percent of surfaces remained contaminated with pathogens, including Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
Today, technology is helping hospitals prevent infections. Exposure to UVC light for a specific length of time and intensity kills dangerous microorganisms. The proper dosage of UVC light can be used to quickly and efficiently disinfect operating rooms, emergency departments, and other high-traffic spaces within a hospital. UVC systems can be deployed throughout a hospital, including in high-impact ORs and ERs and in busy patient rooms, to help reduce time spent manually cleaning and accelerate turnover in these areas.
Studies have confirmed that UVC light is an effective addition to manual cleaning efforts and can kill harmful bacteria quickly and efficiently. A study from Penn Medicine found that ultraviolet light helped reduce C. difficile among cancer patients by 25 percent. The resulting interventions decreased annual direct medical costs by roughly $150,000. An additional study of RD UVC systems found that use of UVC was highly effective in reducing CD spores on contaminated surfaces.
Bundle Evidence-Based Infection Prevention Measures
Having a clear program in place to control infection is crucial for any healthcare facility. No one infection prevention method should be used alone. Instead, EVS teams must use a multi-pronged, bundled approach to be more effective in preventing infection.
The more measures a hospital can take to control the spread of infection, the safer that hospital’s patients and staff will be. Rochester General Hospital bundled UVC with other infection prevention methods and saw a 56 percent reduction in C. difficile rates from 2011 to 2015.
Reducing the number of infections can also mean significant cost savings for hospitals. EVS teams can clean rooms more efficiently with the right UVC system, accelerating turnover in busy patient rooms and ORs. Better disease prevention is also proven to help hospitals save money. One study showed that a 20% reduction in C.diff cases using RD UVC could save the average hospital more than $1.3 million annually in healthcare costs.
Develop and Circulate an Infection Control Plan
EVS teams should collaborate with Infection Prevention (IP) leaders to develop a comprehensive approach to infection control. An infection prevention plan cannot reach its maximum effectiveness if employees are unaware of protocol. All hospital staff members, including EVS teams, should understand the importance of proper infection control so that they can keep themselves – and the hospital’s patients – safe.
Increasing awareness in infection prevention measures also helps everyone stay compliant with IP protocol and mitigate issues when they arise. A well documented IP plan should include data that supports ongoing efforts and demonstrates return on investment for equipment purchases, such as UVC systems. Make sure that everyone working in the hospital knows which measures to take to help kill infectious germs.
Train Every Hospital Department
Infection prevention is every hospital staff member’s job – whether or not they interact directly with patients. Prevention methods such as washing hands, disinfecting equipment, managing linens, and properly removing biomedical waste can all help curb the risk of infection for patients and workers alike.
EVS and IP leaders should provide instruction to new employees as well as continued education for all hospital workers, even those who don’t interact directly with patients. Knowing basics like proper hand washing techniques can greatly decrease the spread of illness in these environments. When employees have received effective training, they can be more proactive in preventing disease. Furthermore, the methods they use become second nature when the processes are made simple and easily repeatable.
If disinfection is done using a specific piece of equipment, such as a UVC system, the right personnel should be trained on how to use these devices. The more efficient the UVC system, the greater confidence staff members can have in their use of this technology. An ideal UVC system should measure the actual dosage of UVC delivered to targeted areas throughout a room. This enhances efficacy when compared to time-based UVC exposure. The most effective systems will also automatically capture and report disinfection data so that IP teams have ample evidence of the solution’s efficacy.
A Comprehensive Approach to Infection Control
No single effort can completely prevent the spread of HAIs throughout a hospital. Yet when EVS teams and IP departments collaborate, they can determine the most efficient and effective solutions to keep patients and staff safe.