4 themes for successful infection prevention amid a pandemic: Study

After evaluating intensive care units with elevated rates of healthcare-associated infections that participated in a federal quality improvement program, a study published Nov. 21 in BMJ Open Quality identified four themes to maintain infection prevention activities during the pandemic. 

Hospital-acquired infections rose in 2020 after years of steady decline, but in 2021, four of six infections tracked by the CDC had increased by as much as 14 percent compared to 2020.

The research team, based at NORC at the University of Chicago and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, found the value of a pre-existing prevention infection infrastructure, a flexibility in implementing policies and practices, consistent buy-in and engagement in healthcare-associated infection prevention activities among leadership and the care teams, and the willingness to learn from other units in the facility and beyond were the most impactful themes in maintaining infection prevention during a pandemic. 

From December 2019 to April 2021, the 49 participating ICU teams maintained quality improvement activities including daily huddles, multidisciplinary rounds and central line and urinary catheter monitoring despite barriers including staff turnover and fatigue and pandemic-related restrictions. 

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