Preventing healthcare-associated infections (HAI) should be a top priority at every hospital. On any given day, about one in 31 hospital patients is hit with an HAI, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). In any given year, the CDC estimates, almost 100,000 Americans with an HAI die.
An effective Infection Protection (IP) team is vital to preventing HAIs within your organization. Putting knowledgeable, committed staff in place is only part of the equation. These staff must be empowered to make decisions and have the right resources to help them get the job done.
Here are some ways you can support your IP people.
Everyone on your staff contributes to your IP efforts. Identifying leaders will help your team get the message across, and to enact a powerful IP strategy. Reach out to department heads, compliance officers, and nursing leaders to enlist their help in championing IP efforts.
Your organization’s IP plan relies upon open collaboration among stakeholders. Every IP team needs someone who can work in close partnership with Environmental Services (EVS) and administrators to support the plan. IP leaders should have certain qualities:
• Clinical expertise
• Support of a capable EVS team
• The will and ability to apply current evidence-based prevention measures, and staff that supports them.
Once you’ve identified these key players, ensure your staff recognizes them as a resource for IP problems and questions. Flowing important infection-related information through a few central points will help make communications more effective, and prevent misinformation from spreading.
Formulate a plan
After identifying IP leaders, craft a document detailing your plan to combat HAI problems. This plan doesn’t need to be bogged down with details, but it should center on the problem at hand, proposed solutions, and the likely cost and ROI of the suggested remedy.
Important factors to keep in mind:
Keep an eye on common culprits
While any number of infections might strike your hospital, the bulk likely will be repeat offenders. Of the about 1.7 million HAI incidents reported each year, about half involve lung or blood infections. Your staff should be ready for anything, but prioritizing IP efforts on the most frequently occurring infections will help make your plan more efficient and effective.
Look at past successes
Actions that worked in the past are positive predictors of what will work in the future. If your UVC system and other interventions proved successful in previous incidents, make a note of that, and consider including them in future IP strategies.
Examine costs and ROI
Healthcare leaders constantly are tasked with making the most of limited resources. Treatment of an HAI can rack up unanticipated treatment expenses; IP plans can be powerful weapons in the fight to conserve costs. Communicating these expenses and ROI to EVS, administrators and other key people can help build support for IP efforts and investment.
Craft quality reports
“Patients over paperwork” is a oft-heard catchphrase in healthcare. Still, it is important that IP stakeholders capture and share data on HAI prevention. Tracking efforts and monitoring effectiveness benefits patients in the long run. Data shows what works, what doesn’t, and informs optimal effectiveness of care.
Share the plan with your people
To maximize your IP efforts, staff must grasp the importance of diligent infection control. This understanding will guard them and your patients from potentially deadly HAI incidents. It also will help increase compliance among staff. Make sure your people are on board with measures necessary to help prevent and kill infectious germs. Also, include everyone in efforts to capture data on IP and infections, which will demonstrate ROI for investments.
A comprehensive training program will ensure everyone is aware of your IP and up to date on current measures. This program should include prevention methods such as washing hands, disinfecting equipment, handling linens, and proper removal of biomedical waste. Incorporate both the basics (like proper hand washing) and more advanced information when appropriate (such as operating UVC systems and other equipment).
Invest in technology
Certainly, your IP plan should always encourage frequent and proactive hand hygiene practices using hot water and antibacterial soap, as well as aggressive manual cleaning practices and other additional disinfection interventions such as the use of UV light. These actions provide a vital defense against the spread of HAIs. Research supports that these measures should be used as a “bundled” approach. The American Journal of Infection Control reports that after conventional manual cleaning, up to 50 percent of surfaces tested were still contaminated with serious pathogens, including MRSA and C. diff. To prevent costly, deadly infections, your IP program should bundle manual cleaning with other disinfection technologies.
UVC light is a powerful, effective tool in combating pathogens. It is important to note that UVC disinfection is an adjunct to manual cleaning – there is no substitute for manual cleaning. UVC disinfection technology should demonstrate proof of compliance, and help your EVS team achieve their goals. Because the technology is easy to implement and simple to operate, it eases the burden on your staff and helps them do their jobs more effectively and efficiently.
Frequent, proactive use of UVC technology and exposing surfaces to UVC light helps reduce the pool of pathogens present in your hospital environment. Applying the right UVC dosage can be effective in disinfecting operating rooms, patient rooms and other key areas to help mitigate the risk of patients’ exposure to HAIs.
Additionally, room turnover is very important to all hospital departments. When using UVC technology, be sure that you use a system that can efficiently reduce the amount of treatment time required to disinfect surfaces while applying a measured dose of UVC. This will help increase system throughput
and room turnover, empowering your organization to serve more patients. The user-friendly technology also reduces incidents of infection among vulnerable patient populations. For example, a Penn Medicine study showed UV light helped reduce C. difficile among cancer patients by 25 percent. These interventions helped decrease annual direct medical costs by approximately $150,000. Sharing such data that demonstrates the effectiveness and cost-saving benefits of specific measures can empower your IP leaders and make the case for additional resources.