Two workers inspect medical scanning equipment

Renewed Focus on Cleanliness Needed After Big Jump in HAIs

 

By Dave Francoeur

When the coronavirus first began circulating on U.S. soil in early 2020, we witnessed hospitals immediately going on high alert with their sanitation practices. In those early days, we simply didn’t know how the virus was transmitted, but it made good sense to double down on basic hygiene for everyone – like thoroughly washing our hands – while hospital providers donned extra layers of PPE.

Despite this public health crisis drawing a hyper-vigilance towards cleanliness, the rate of healthcare-acquired infections (HAIs) continues to climb. Among the six mostly commonly tracked infections, rates increased by double digits in four – including nearly 45% just in infections related to ventilators, which have been in high demand throughout the pandemic.

I found the most sobering part of the report to be that we’ve lost a decade of progress against some of the most-common HAIs.

Between ongoing measures to prevent COVID-19 spread and the increased prevalence of HAIs today, hospitals will be re-examing their practices to keep their facilities safe for patient care. As we all know, HAIs are generated from many different causes and many different places, and no one solution will address every risk.

But an effective Healthcare Technology Management program has the resources and expertise to help mitigate and reduce the risks of HAI as related to your medical equipment. In fact, that’s precisely what TKA delivers to our hospital partners through our READI program, which stands for Reliable Equipment Available Disinfected Inspected.

HAIs draw spotlight to hospitals

Any case of an HAI is serious, first and most concerningly to patient care – but secondarily the risk to hospital staff and the bottom line, as reimbursements are either reduced or eliminated due to these infections. HAIs also carry a reputational risk, which makes their prevention a consistent top priority for hospital administrators.

Still, we circle back to the fact that providers, machines and patients carry infections. With all of that happening within the walls of a hospital, we need to remind everyone involved in patient care and supporting services to adhere to proven practices in infection control. Consider how easily any particulate – whether it could cause COVID or another illness – can spread.

Let’s look at the journey of one device, which is requested for patient use. Once delivered to the room and connected to the patient for treatment, there’s a risk of germs being transmitted – and those germs might not even be related to the reason the individual is in the hospital – onto that equipment. When the machine is no longer needed for that patient, the hospital team should always have an “a-ha!” moment that any infection in that room could travel with the machine when it’s moved. For our biomeds, being called for pick up is our signal to thoroughly sanitize that device before it returns to service.

Our READI framework introduces an automatic, proactive process, which is the first step in reducing infection risks. As with any infection channel, if you don’t halt it at the beginning, you open the potential for escalating risks. Equipment sanitization is HTM’s piece of the infection-control puzzle, and other teams hold responsibility for limiting spread within their patient interactions. As we deal specifically with infectious diseases, we implement additional measures to help ensure that a particulate never leaves the room, with disinfecting happening right on the spot.

Infection control must be a proactive practice

High-caliber HTM programs implement and run solid programs such as TKA’s READI offering. We monitor the usage of all devices and ensure we execute the correct santization protocols. We follow prescribed practices detailed by the manufacturers, using the appropriate tools and cleaning materials in the right fashion.

We routinely swab just-cleaned machines and run cultures to validate that devices meet sanitized standards and that our processes are accurate. We work closely with clinicians so they understand what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. TKA makes sure clinicians know their job is to make equipment available/accessible so biomeds can get to it to do their job.(We also do a lot of education of clinical and other staff on why to leave the sanitization responsibility to our expert biomeds, as others’ tactics usually don’t reach targeted disinfection levels or end up taking the machine out of service by using the wrong cleaning products – leading to more costs for the hospital.)

Pandemic brought attention to infection

The pandemic highlighted gaps that already existed, but might not have been as prevalent or noticeable. Of course, when COVID-19 was initially recognized, we weren’t even sure how it was transmitted. Then we learned about respiratory transmission among people less than 6 feet apart.

COVID was the perfect storm, as we saw how easily it could spread. The fact that it was so severe only underscored that we needed to take a serious approach. What COVID taught us, as evidenced by the HAI increases this year, is that you can be doing all the right things – but you need to make sure you are doing those things to the right extent. You need to trust that your clinical engineering team is doing its part to conduct the disinfection practices on your medical technology at the right level.

The HTM industry, after all, arose out of the need for patient safety, and reducing the risk of HAI is at the core of that mission. At TKA, our integrated approach ensures medical equipment is properly cared for across the entire spectrum, coupled with our Real-Time Location System that allows you to pinpoint where any single device is in your hospital at any single moment.

Contact us to learn how the READI program could elevate your HTM service – starting with meeting disinfection standards you can trust.

Dave Francoeur is TKA’s senior vice president for marketing and sales.

 

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