3 top patient safety concerns right now, per Leapfrog CEO

Amid the pandemic's omicron surge, one expert has three patient safety and infection control issues top of mind.

More than two years into the pandemic, a lot of problems have been compounded from previous surges. Last fall, Leah Binder, president and CEO of The Leapfrog Group, spoke with Becker's about some of the less-discussed consequences of healthcare's labor shortage: care quality and patient safety. 

Now, amid the omicron surge, Ms. Binder shared the three most concerning trends she is currently seeing: 

1. Hospitals bringing in underqualified physicians because of staffing shortages. Amid national staffing shortages, Ms. Binder said some hospitals have had to bring in physicians who aren't board-certified or trained in specific specialties, particularly in intensive care settings. While acknowledging the difficulties of the current conditions, she emphasized the importance of having highly trained and qualified physicians in ICU settings, adding that having professionals not specifically trained in ICU medicine can compromise quality. Patient survival increases by 40 percent when ICUs are adequately staffed with specialized physicians, Ms. Binder said, adding that when Leapfrog staffing standards aren't met, patient death rates rise. 

"When physicians aren't adequately trained, it's more dangerous for patients. That's just a fact," Ms. Binder said. She emphasized that ICU patients aren't just dying from COVID-19 — there are still patients suffering from other complications and diseases, and ICUs need physicians on top of their game.

"Right now hospitals are under enormous pressure to just get staff," Ms. Binder concluded. "It's a real crisis that is playing out in a way that is potentially deadly." 

2. Significant rise in bacterial, fungal infections. Recently, there has been a dramatic increase in reports of both bacterial and fungal infections. Specifically, Candida auris has been a huge problem for hospitals in the last few months, Ms. Binder noted. Hospitals are overrun, and resistant bacteria and fungus are becoming a more prominent issue, though most of what Ms. Binder has heard has been anecdotal. 

In December, CMS released its new measures under consideration list. One measure would track the development of new bacteremia and fungemia among patients at acute care hospitals, which would make reporting easier and expand knowledge on the spread and rate of infection. The proposal is "clearly needed," Ms. Binder said, and she believes it has a high likelihood of showing up on CMS' Inpatient Public Reporting within a few years — or sooner.

3. Practicing proper hand-hygiene monitoring. "Given the increase in resistant bacterial infection in hospitals, there has never been a more important time to practice excellent hand hygiene," Ms. Binder said. "It's the first line of defense, for patients and workers. I recognize the stress that hospitals are under, but hand hygiene has to happen. Otherwise, we're putting lives at risk.  


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