How to Reduce HAIs Through Education

HHS estimates that one in 20 hospitalized patients has a hospital-acquired infection, an epidemic which is responsible for between $28 billion to $33 billion in unnecessary healthcare expenditures annually.



Hospital administrators are all too aware how costly HAIs are, both in terms of patient safety and in terms of reimbursement penalties from Medicare and Medicaid.


Below, healthcare professionals on the front lines of infection prevention share how education can help hospitals reduce their rates of HAIs.


Clinician education. Children's Healthcare of Atlanta has reduced central-line associated blood stream infections by more than 70 percent since 2005. J. Renee Watson, RNC, BSN, CIC, manager of infection prevention and epidemiology, attributes this success to the ongoing to a multidisciplinary team of clinicians and infection prevention specialists that meets regularly to share information and educate other staff members on best practices.


The hospital also "brings in education gurus to make sure we are educating everyone in the most optimal way," on best practices in infection prevention, says Ms. Watson.


Barbara Bergin, MD, a surgeon with Texas Orthopedics in Austin, advocates a hands-on approach to educating clinicians about infection prevention: "I was taught sterile technique by some old battle ax of a head nurse who would not hesitate to rip sheets, scrub brushes or gowns out of my hands if I messed up." She says infection prevention leaders need to be engaged in actual procedures and be ready to deliver on-the-job education. "Watch the process and make sure people know how you want it done," she says. "You might have to sacrifice a few preps and drapes to get the point across."


Patient education. "Initially, we were just focused on clinicians," says Ms. Watson of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta's hand hygiene education program. Since including families in the training, compliance has increased among both patients and clinicians, says Ms. Watson. "Patients and families were told to speak up if a clinician had forgotten hand hygiene," she says.


Families are also educated on how to properly change a dressing and other procedures so they can help spot missteps during the procedure. "It's been helpful to have two sets of eyes" on the lookout for errors, she says.


Therese Antony, RN, an infection preventionist with Vanguard Weiss Memorial Hospital in Chicago, was a driving force behind the hospital's successful effort to reduce infections following primary knee surgery to zero. She emphasizes the importance of understanding patients' existing knowledge and habits when creating a patient education program: "An important first step in our improvement was to ensure patients were using CHG-based antimicrobial skin soaps prior to surgery," she says. "We discovered early on in our investigation that our assumptions of how patients perform skin hygiene before surgery were wrong." Patients not only were not using the proper soap, but also were not showering or bathing in a bathtub for fear of falling, she says.


The patient education program was then modified to "to ensure that they met the safety concerns of our aging population, yet still provided for clean skin prior to surgery," says Ms. Antony.


Board education. Successfully reducing HAIs can result in significant savings for any hospital. Children's Healthcare of Atlanta's Ms. Watson emphasizes the importance of tracking and quantifying savings that result from improved infection prevention, and sharing that information with the hospital's board to keep support high for continuing to implement HAI-reduction efforts.


These savings "need to be quantified and talked about" to keep the momentum going to continually fuel improvements, she says.


More Articles on Infection Prevention:

States' Progress in Reducing Central Line Infections
Patient Safety Tool: Notifying Patients of Infection Control Lapse
Overlooking This HAI Source Could Cost Hospitals Millions   



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