Author: Jan Patterson, MD, MS, FACP, FIDSA, FSHEA, CPE, FACHE
President of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America
Change is never easy and old habits are tough to break. Since preventable healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) affect one in 20 patients, the healthcare community – from the C-Suite to the front line – must come together to change practices that allow HAIs to impact the quality and safety of patient care.
Last week, medical researchers and practitioners from across the world convened in San Diego for IDWeek 2012TM, the first joint annual meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society and HIV Medical Association. The meeting covered the progress we’ve made in eliminating HAIs and what more we need to do to confront these issues. Even with the evidence that backs up core infection control practices, without behavior change, science can only accomplish so much.
Cultivating a Culture of Safe Care
Creating change in healthcare requires knowledge and practice of quality improvement. Professionals must know the evidence-based measures and must also understand standard quality improvement tools to implement them. Similar to corporate cultures, healthcare management needs to show support for these measures for them to be embraced and put into daily practice at the bedside.
This issue takes real leadership among those who make decisions at the top, making a significant commitment to craft policies in eliminating HAIs by listening to feedback from the entire healthcare team from hospital executives to those on the front line, including doctors, nurses, medical assistants, and laboratory technicians.
There is a need to recognize and reward success. If a unit achieves a low record of HAIs, make them the model to others to strive toward. Recognize their commitment to the mission of safe healthcare and challenge others to follow in their footsteps.
No matter the infection type, SHEA recommends five prevention strategies that should be applied across the board, including:
- Improve hand hygiene among healthcare professionals;
- Use of appropriate isolation precautions for patients known to be colonized with dangerous or drug-resistant organisms like Clostridium difficile or MRSA;
- Ensure adequate cleaning of the environment and equipment;
- Remove unnecessary catheters and other devices promptly; and
- Educate healthcare professionals and patients.
Across the nation, in acute care facilities of every shape and size, it’s evident that involving the whole healthcare team in efforts that combine science and implementation result in success. Providing safer, high-quality care requires that each every member of the team to do their part to promote a culture of safe care.