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In our previous post, we discussed how a recent report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention verified that while hospitals across the nation are making some progress fighting hospital-acquired infections, they remain a major threat to patient safety.
For instance, the report determined that in 2011 alone, the most recent year for which such data is available, over 720,000 patients acquired an HAI and that roughly 75,000 of these patients ultimately died.
We also discussed how the medical news website FierceHealthcare devised a five-step plan that it says hospitals can implement to reduce the number of HAIs. In today’s post, we’ll examine the remaining three steps.
The most advanced technology should always be used
FierceHealthcare’s experts indicate that hospitals must not discount the role of technology in the fight against the spread of HAIs. Specifically, they reason that while traditional methods like increased hand washing and enhanced sterilization efforts by staff are effective on their own, the introduction of modern equipment can eliminate all but the most virulent hospital superbugs.
For example, they recommend that hospitals consider using portable sterilization units capable of being rolled into both patient rooms and operating rooms as a supplement to traditional cleaning. Here, the units actually use blasts of ultraviolet light to kill bacteria and viruses missed during the initial sterilization sweep.
Plans of action should be drawn up and executed
Hospitals must do more than just acknowledge the problem posed by HAIs, say the site’s experts. Rather, they must decide and implement a definitive plan of action as to how they plan to keep their patients safe from this invisible foe.
This could include drafting a comprehensive infection control plan in which a team of dedicated professionals (perhaps consisting of representatives from each department) work together to monitor infection rates, introduce changes to sterilization procedures and make the necessary adjustments.
It could also consist of something simpler like creating a specialized sterilization/disinfection unit in which housekeepers are assigned to sterilize high-traffic or potential problem spots several times a day, or encouraging staff members to minimize contact with patients before washing their hands.
Hospitals should consider copper
Finally, the experts advise hospitals to consider the installation of copper surfaces on everything from IV poles and call buttons to bedrails and side tables. That’s because studies have shown that copper’s electrical conductivity can render microbes inactive by stealing their internal electricity, or, as stated by one researcher, “[microbes] literally die because they run out of juice.”
Indeed, these studies have shown that copper surfaces can actually reduce HAIs by a whopping 60 percent.
It will be interesting to see if hospitals here in Pennsylvania and across the U.S. prove willing to introduce these measures to fight HAIs and, if so, just how many lives it will save.
Source: FierceHealthcare, “5 ways to reduce hospital-acquired infections,” Katie Sullivan, April 24, 2014