There’s a running joke that a hospital is where you go to get sick. The reality, however, isn’t very funny. From hospitals to clinics, Healthcare Associated Infections (HAIs) are all too real. These statistics from the CDC highlight the magnitude and seriousness of the problem:
- Each year, HAIs are responsible for approximately 1.7 million infections; 99,000 deaths; and as much as $33 billion in excess costs.
- An estimated 5% of hospital patients acquire an HAI while being treated for something else.
- The most common HAIs are pneumonia, gastrointestinal infections, urinary tract infections, primary bloodstream infections, and surgical site infections.
The good news is that most of these infections are preventable. According to the CDC, from 2008 to 2014, hospitals that adopted HAI prevention guidelines saw a 50% decrease in bloodstream infections associated with central lines, a 17% decrease in surgical site infections, an 8% decrease in c. difficile (a gastrointestinal infection), and a 13% decrease in staph infections. So prevention clearly works. And it all comes down to the supplies on hand, hospital processes, and employee training.
1. Healthcare Supplies
From disinfecting agents and gloves to wound dressings and antibiotics, the right healthcare supplies are essential for HAI prevention. And it starts with strategic procurement.
When it’s time to purchase healthcare supplies, you will soon discover that there are endless options. However, not all vendors are equal. The effectiveness of a product can vary greatly from vendor to vendor, and that can make the process of choosing one even harder, especially when there are budget constraints.
Product effectiveness, however, isn’t the only factor to consider when choosing a vendor. Service levels – things like inventory management, delivery times, and reliability – are equally important when choosing a supplier, because running out of supplies is a healthcare provider’s nightmare scenario.
There are a lot of factors to consider when choosing a vendor, and throwing darts at a list on the wall doesn’t quite cut it. To make a well-informed decision it’s going to take a strong strategic procurement process to sort through all of the options and select the best provider.
Unfortunately, even top-of-the-line supplies can’t prevent infections if the processes there are being used in is broken. Strategic procurement takes that into account and identifies the weak points where infection prevention is falling through the cracks. For example, how easy or difficult is it for the medical staff to grab a fresh pair of gloves? Complicated, unnecessarily, and burdensome processes increase the likelihood that people will take shortcuts, thereby undermining infection control efforts.
It’s also important to compare your processes against those used by other leading healthcare providers. If your facility is mopping once a day, for example, while everybody else is mopping four times a day, that process clearly needs to be adjusted.
Employee training is another critical part of HAI prevention. Even highly experienced medical personnel can gradually forget critical HAI prevention steps. Regular training not only keeps the topic in the limelight, it can also emphasize the importance of such procedures. Training is also a great opportunity to update your medical staff on any process changes you’ve implemented or new supplies that should be used.
HAIs are a serious problem – but they’re a preventable problem. Long lasting process change requires everyone’s involvement from the janitor to the doctor, to the front desk receptionist and nurse assistant. Focusing on processes, continuous training, and the proper management of healthcare supplies should be a team effort in order to lower HAIs at your facility.