6 Infection Control Strategies for Healthcare Facilities
Healthcare facility managers and nursing directors share a common goal — keeping patients safe from healthcare-associated infections.
Although progress is being made in reducing healthcare-associated infections (HAIs), according to the CDC, on average about one in 31 hospital patients has at least one healthcare-associated infection.
Continuing the laudable reduction in HAIs requires rigorous practice of tried-and-true methods combined with vigilant pursuit of new ways to improve infection control.
Here are a half-dozen ideas to stimulate your thinking.
Simplify Hand Washing
If you've been involved for long in trying to get other human beings to wash their hands to reduce the incidence of HIAs, you've probably encountered active resisters and "organizational constipators."
Active resistors could be surgeons who don't like change and vocally resist it. The organizational constipators are more insidious, seeing stealthy non-cooperation as an exercise of power.
As a result of human psychology and other factors, simple hand washing remains — 14 years after the World Health Organization's 2005 "Clean Care is Safer Care" began — well below acceptable levels.
A systematic review of studies on compliance rates in 2010 found a median compliance rate of only 40 percent among health care workers, with physicians having lower compliance than nurses (32% vs 48%). Although there is reason to believe these figures have improved, we still have a long way to go before compliance approaches 100%.
Your task of human behavior modification might take several tracks:
- Additional strategically-placed signage
- Increased staff education
- More hand sanitizer stations at key locations
- Continuous electronic monitoring of hand washing
An electronic hand hygiene monitoring system used at Denver Health Medical Center increased hand washing from about 40% to 70% while providing data to gauge the effectiveness of poster placement on hand hygiene.
Support Your Infection Control Team
We know that a hospital's interdisciplinary infection control committee must provide crucial leadership and education to the staff while continuously monitoring protocols, instruments, and equipment in light of ever-changing bacterial strains and new research. The fundamental challenge to this team is translating patient safety ideals into action in a less-than-perfect environment.
Whether your job is facilities management or infection control team director, you have an interest in making the most of limited budget in pursuit of patient safety.
Here are three key areas in which to concentrate:
- Reviewing - The multidisciplinary nature of your team makes it perfect for reviewing chemicals, instruments, and equipment as well as proposals for new procedures.
- Evaluating - There's simply no substitute for ongoing, rigorous review of processes within the facility in every department, with the goal of continuous improvement.
- Updating - Keeping abreast of infection control advancements is the duty of every team member. Be sure they are striving to stay updated in their areas of expertise.
What's the best to communicate changes and updates to hospital staff without busting the budget? It's important to stay open to new ways to reach hospital staff. For example, the old standbys (newsletters, meeting minutes, and in-service training) can be supplemented by newer methods such as HIPAA-compliant secure messaging to personal devices.
Clean Your Mouse
Computer input devices may not be top of mind the way patient care equipment is, but they are notoriously bacteria-laden. It's good practice to deploy antimicrobial keyboard skin covers and a bottle of hand sanitizer at every station.
While it has become common knowledge that keyboards harbor far more bacteria than toilet seats, other objects may be even worse. According to a 2016 report to IT professionals, the electronic ID badge was number one, with 243 times more bacteria than a common pet toy. Another one of the dirtiest objects tested came in third behind badges and keyboards: the cell phone. The mouse came in fourth.
May other places in hospitals can harbor bacteria — some alarmingly drug-resistant — from privacy curtains to elevator buttons. And to cap off the list, you can find five more here, in our blog post from June 2018.
Focus on Respiratory Hygiene Awareness
The World Health Organization says effective implementation of respiratory hygiene is problematic because patients often present without clear symptoms while being highly contagious, and rapid diagnostic tests are often expensive or not available.
Despite these obstacles, the WHO found that systematic application of infection prevention and control measures were effective in preventing a potential epidemic.
The entrances to outpatient facilities are often the point of first contact with patients displaying respiratory symptoms.
Signage should be posted instructing patients and family to practice respiratory hygiene etiquette, which includes:
- Cover your cough
- Wear a mask
- Dispose of tissues properly
- Wash your hands
In addition to instructing patients with visual alerts, it is critically important to make available masks, tissues, disposal receptacles, and alcohol-based hand rub dispensers or sinks (with soap and paper towels).
Plan for Resiliency
If your healthcare facility is in the planning stages of construction or renovation, it's an opportunity to plan for resiliency in case of natural disaster in order to maintain infection control. One look at the remarkable increase in reported natural disasters over the last half-century makes the case.
The CDC lists these resources on disaster preparedness for healthcare facilities:
- Emergency water supply planning
- Adapting standards of care during disasters
- Bioterrorism readiness planning
- OSHA best practices for receiving mass casualty victims
Building to withstand high winds, earthquakes, and flooding is essential to allowing your facility to function when it's most needed.
Besides planning for resiliency in construction, you should create a buffer against emergencies in other ways. Backup equipment and supplies should include generators water pumps, water, blood, and depending on your climate, salt and snow removal equipment. Backup generators require training in their operation and regular testing.
Finally, training all personnel using a resource such as the ANA's Adapting Standards of Care Under Extreme Conditions is key to maintaining infection control under all circumstances.
Monitor Advances in Infection Control Technology
Meeting ICRA guidelines for infection control for Class IV construction projects is a challenge that calls for newer technologies such as mobile dust containment carts, negative air machines with HEPA filters to control airborne pathogens, and UV disinfection tools.
For access to ceiling tiles for maintenance projects, the HEPACART Mobile Dust Containment Cart has become a standard piece of equipment for healthcare contractors, providing time and labor cost savings while maintaining infection control in high-risk areas.
A particularly effective air filtration system combines UV disinfection with a HEPA filtration system and is small and portable for use in patient rooms, waiting rooms, and other areas. The Germbuster 5000 is a 30-pound unit, mounted on wheels. Its Far-UV Sterilraytm technology uses the most effective UV wavelength to tear apart bacteria, germs, and spores.
We invite you to check out our products overview page and read our Infection Control For Healthcare Facilities Guide. If you’re not sure which product best fits your situation, fill out and submit our customer project assessment form.