With the end of the HHS' 5-year HAI action plan nearing, the time has come to truly buckle down and focus on our infection control strategies. Here are some tips on how to start.
The importance of infection control can’t be understated — according to the CDC, infections acquired in the hospital cause 99,000 deaths per year, while further infecting or endangering 1.7 million in total.
We are nearly at the end of the 5-year HAI action plan put in place by the US Department of Health and Human Services in 2015 and it’s time to double-down on infection-control strategies. The 2020 targets for reductions on HAIs range from 30% fewer to 50% fewer infections, so where do we start?
Person-to-person infections are usually what we worry about most, often leaving person-to-surface to slip in under our radar. This is why we have to focus on all of the commonly-used work surfaces around the facility first.
So what do clinicians touch the most? Probably the medical computer or tablet they use several times a day. Whether accessing EMRs, looking up prescriptions, or communicating with other clinicians, computers see a lot of traffic by multiple users a day. And those users are treating patients with infectious conditions or high bacterial loads.
That’s where two types of antimicrobial medical computers come in — those with an antimicrobial coating applied to the existing plastic, and those with antimicrobial nanotech built into the case’s resin. Coating is generally cheaper, but it also wears away after repeated cleanings, which are common in hospitals.
Medical computers, tablets, and panel PCs with built-in antimicrobial resin are more durable — you’d have to scrub pretty hard to actually sand the case down to nothing.
Finally, look for proper cooling systems when considering medical PCs. Traditional computers use fans to keep their components cool — unfortunately, fans also draw in dust, dirt, and liquids that carry pathogens. These pathogens grow in the warm, dark environment inside a computer, which nurses and doctors then touch.
Instead consider fanless medical computers, which stay cool through a combination of low-power parts and heat sink cooling.
Empower Staff to Take Charge of Infection Control
All of the infection control policies in the world won’t be effective without help from clinicians in the trenches. It’s advised to formulate a facility-wide strategy where at least one person per department is tasked with executing infection control policies.
Whether this responsibility is something voluntary or comes with an incentive is up to administration. However, this extra responsibility is crucial.
Data being gathered by surveillance, surveys, IoT devices, and medical sensors can all be analyzed and sent to these designated people at regularly, giving them actionable intelligence and the agency to draft and enforce infection control strategies.
Increase Sterilization Accountability with Smart Asset Tracking
Proper sterilization techniques for surgical instruments and other reusable supplies are essential, however, staff are only human and missing a step happens from time to time. Unfortunately, a mistake in the sterilization process can lead to infection or injury.
That’s where RFID asset tracking can help meet 2020 goals for HAI reduction. RFID and/or barcodes can be attached to all reusable medical equipment.
Instruments can be scanned right before use and, after the procedure, they can be scanned again by a medical tablet or handheld scanner to mark them as “soiled” in the system. Then, at a sterilization station, each instrument can be swiped through another scanner to complete the cycle.
If a nurse picks up a tray before a procedure, scans it, and sees the tray missed a step in the process, they can immediately catch it.
ID badges scanned at doors and entrances by staff can also be put together to create a picture of potential infection — did a nurse visit an infectious patient and then not visit a hand washing station? They can be alerted immediately on their smartphone, allowing them to correct the error.
Further Methods of Infection Control
Of course, these are only a few methods. It’s also wise to stay abreast of the most recent outbreaks and the methods to combat them.
Infection control is a problem that only organization, clinician engagement, and technology can fight. To learn more methods of infection control, and how medical computers can lead the way, contact an expert at Cybernet today.