Engaging patients to prevent SSIs: 9 opportunities

Historically, surgical site infection prevention efforts have focused on the role of the healthcare worker, but patients have an important role to play in preventing SSIs as well.

"The importance and influence of patient participation is becoming an increasingly important concept and advocated as a means to improve patient safety," the authors of a report in Antimicrobial Resistance & Infection Control wrote.

The report is based on findings from a panel of five experts with an interest in SSIs. The panel identified key roles patients can play in nine key recommendations for SSI prevention.

While the study provides a leaflet to explain these directives to patients, the authors encourage a multifaceted approach to communicating these roles to patients "to meet various health literacy needs across the general population."

Some of those key actions for patients are listed below.

1. Staphylococcus aureus screening and decolonization

  • Apply decolonization treatment the night and morning before surgery

2. Smoking

  • Quit smoking a month or more before surgery

3. Hair removal

  • Do no remove hair at the planned incision site at home

4. Hand hygiene

  • Instruct visitors to not touch the wound or dressing
  • Say something if healthcare workers do not perform hand hygiene

5. Body temperature

  • Say something if they feel cold before or after surgery

6. Preoperative showering and bathing

  • Shower or bathe with soap on the night before and/or the morning of surgery to ensure skin is clean before surgery

7. Diabetes

  • Maintain stable blood glucose levels before, during and after surgery

8. Wound care after surgery

  • Tell a healthcare provider about redness, pain, swelling or fever

9. Multidrug-resistant organisms

  • Tell a provider of travel history or recent hospitalizations

See the full list of recommendations here.

"Patient engagement in preventing SSI might be an effective and useful strategy adding to the already existent surgical site care bundles," the authors concluded. "Yet, this topic is still at its infancy and deserves further rigorous studies to support the effectiveness of patient-focused interventions in preventing surgical site infections."

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