Controlling the spread of infection throughout an entire hospital or medical center is a thankless job. Your IP team is tasked with developing the right strategies and selecting the right to decrease and prevent the spread of dangerous contaminants; when they succeed, they’re simply “doing their job.” When infections do spread, responsibility falls on the IP team. One in twenty Americans will develop a healthcare-associated infection (HAI) in the course of a hospitalization, and a whopping 1.7 million HAIs are reported in the U.S. each year. Fortunately, there are many infection prevention strategies and tools available that help decrease and prevent the spread of infection, and thankfully, they can all be deployed in two of the most susceptible and busiest areas of your hospital: the ER and Patient Rooms.
Emergency Room Challenges
It can be challenging to maintain IP procedures in the ER for a number of reasons. For one, invasive procedures are performed in the ER, placing patients at risk for device-related infections. Secondly, trauma response is more important than infection control compliance, meaning priority is given to immediate care over maintaining IP procedures. And thirdly, the fact that any patient demographic can be encountered on any given day necessitates the consideration of numerous potential pathogens, and the logistics of patient flow, unpredictable volume, and fluctuating disease prevalence renders many effective practices, such as cohort nursing or waiting room separation, difficult or impractical at times.
Patient Room Challenges
Patient rooms are the site of constant turnover. New patients shuffle in and out each day, all with their own family of bacteria. As such, surfaces in patient rooms such as bedrails, bedside tables, call buttons, door handles and television remotes play a role in the transmission of infection from one patient to another. An IP team can have excellent cleaning staff, but human error will always exist. “No matter how good your environmental services staff are, there will be areas missed during cleaning, so we must add technology to fill in the gaps,” says Ann Marie Pettis, RN, BSN, director of infection prevention at the University of Rochester Medical Center.
Best IP Strategies
UVC disinfection should be a key component of your IP plan. UV light kills dangerous microorganisms when exposed to UV light for a specific length of time and intensity. Select a UVC system that automatically captures and reports disinfection data, ensuring your IP team has the proof of compliance data it needs for efficacy reporting. It should also measure actual UVC dosage delivered to the targeted areas using multiple sensors throughout the room vs. just using time-based UVC exposure. UVC systems can be deployed throughout your entire hospital, especially high-impact ERs and busy patient rooms.
Real Time Tracking of Hand Hygiene
Hand hygiene remains the least expensive infection control measure in healthcare. But it’s also tough to enforce. Real-Time Location Systems allow healthcare organizations to track hand-hygiene compliance and noncompliance events without error, increasing infection control in all areas throughout the hospital with location monitoring. With RTLS, staff is encouraged to engage in hand hygiene, decreasing the spread of HAIs that are commonly passed on from staff to staff or staff to patient. In patient rooms that are frequented by a constant flow of staff and patients, RTLS helps enforce hand hygiene and reduce the spread of HAIs.
When an infection does break out, preventing the infection from spreading often begins with cohorting. That is, patients who are suffering from the same disease or infection should be kept together in a designated area. In patient areas where rooms are often separated by a curtain, infections can spread easily from one patient to another if they are being treated in the same area, with the same staff and shared patient care equipment. Keeping patients with the same infection separate from other hospital patients is an effective strategy of minimizing the spread of a harmful disease.
When it comes to preventing HAIs in the ER and Patient Rooms, it’s usually not one thing, but rather many things that need to be considered. Take a bundled approach when creating your IP plan in all hospital rooms and departments.
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