Health care-associated infections, or HAIs, are one of the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States. HAIs account for an estimated 1.7 million infections and 99,000 associated deaths each year.
An HAI is defined as an infection that a patient acquires during the course of receiving treatment for other conditions within a health care setting. While a patient can acquire an HAI during a hospital procedure or treatment, there is an equal risk of developing an HAI because of the spread of an infection from one patient to another or from a caregiver to a patient. If a patient is admitted to the hospital with a pre-existing, high-risk infection, specific precautions must be taken in order to prevent this infection from spreading to other patients, physicians, staff, and visitors.
Boulder Community Health has been successful at keeping HAIs under control. Our culture of safety reinforces the notion that each and every individual entering our facilities plays an important role in maintaining patient safety. Patients, physicians, employees, visitors and volunteers share responsibility for taking action to help prevent health care-associated infections.
Standard and Transmission-Based
In order to prevent the onset or spread of HAIs, BCH staff and volunteers adhere to infection control practices recommended by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC), and other national organizations. These important safety measures fall within two categories: standard precautions and transmission-based precautions.
Standard precautions are designed for care of all patients regardless of their diagnosis or presumed infection status. These precautions include diligent hand hygiene and wearing protective gear, such as gloves, gowns, masks and goggles, any time there is anticipated contact with blood or bodily fluids. Additional standard precautions include proper cleaning and disinfecting of patient care equipment, beds, bedrails and bedside equipment.
When needed, transmission-based precautions are used in addition to standard precautions. Transmission-based precautions are designed for patients who have, or are suspected to have, a high-risk infection that is likely to spread.
Transmission-based precautions may include posting warning signs on a patient’s door, mandatory use of protective gowns, goggles, masks, and gloves for any health care worker, visitor or family member who comes into contact with this particular patient, or using special air handling and ventilation systems to prevent infection transmission.
Below is a more detailed overview of our safety measures to prevent HAIs in BCH facilities:
- Our infection control program includes an expanded focus on safer practice of procedures with a known higher risk of infection, and a monitoring system to closely track infection rates.
- We employ an infection control practitioner nationally certified in Infection Control and Epidemiology.
- We identify high-risk procedures and other possible causes of infection.
- Each year, we review our risk assessment and HAI rates and, when needed, develop new goals and strategies for the upcoming year.
- We promote strict adherence to hand hygiene guidelines by health care workers and visitors to avoid passing infections to or between hospitalized patients.
- We pay strict attention to aseptic technique during medical procedures, including use of sterile gowns, gloves, masks, and barriers.
- We sterilize reusable equipment such as tubing for ventilators, and any devices that come in contact with the respiratory tract.
- We remove any tubes or lines as soon as possible.
- Our care providers use protective barriers such as gowns, gloves, masks and goggles as needed to prevent contact with any blood or body fluids.
- We use silver alloy-coated urinary catheters that destroy bacteria before they can migrate up into the bladder.
- Patients with known, high-risk infections are placed in isolation rooms.
- Medical instruments and equipment are sterilized.
- We monitor the use of antibiotics to help us choose the most appropriate antibiotic for a specific type of infection and to reduce the cultivation of resistant bacteria.
Our goal at BCH is to eliminate health care-associated infections. We’ve implemented several programs based on a “back to basics” approach that includes a raised awareness of proper hand hygiene, a refined system for cleaning patient rooms and equipment, and increased support for patients, staff and visitors to communicate any concerns in this important area.
We’ve been working diligently to improve our already good rates of hand hygiene. Click here to read more about our hospital-wide Hand Hygiene Campaign.
Numerous clinical studies, including one from Johns Hopkins University, show that relatively simple changes in behavior—better hand hygiene by the hospital staff, for example—can have a profound impact on the transmission of health care -associated infections. The CDC says that if health care providers and visitors simply sanitize their hands prior to touching the patient or objects in the patient’s room, they can effectively reduce bacterial infections by as much as 30-40%.
Help Prevent the Spread of Germs — Cover Your Cough
Influenza (flu) and other serious respiratory illnesses such as respiratory syncytial virus (cold), whooping cough and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) are spread by coughing, sneezing and touching people and objects with hands contaminated by germs. Follow this cough and cold etiquette to help prevent the spread of germs that cause those illnesses:
Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue whenever you cough or sneeze
Immediately place used tissues in a waste basket
If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow, not into your hands
Practice hand hygiene by using alcohol-based hand rub or washing your hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds
If our clinical staff observe that you have symptoms of a cold or flu, we will ask you to protect others by wearing a surgical mask while you are in the hospital
Family and friends who have a cold or flu should postpone visiting rather than risk making patients and others in the hospital sick.
Enhanced Equipment Cleaning
BCH is currently piloting a new equipment cleaning program that will eventually be applied throughout the hospital. We are refining procedures for cleaning patient rooms and disinfecting equipment, such as blood pressure monitors, thermometers and stethoscopes. Basically, every piece of equipment needs to be thoroughly and properly disinfected between each patient use.
We are also implementing a more systematic process for tracking cleaned equipment. We’ve created double-sided tags that classify whether a piece of equipment is “clean” or “in use”. When equipment has been freshly cleaned, it must be identified with a tag. When staff need to access equipment, they cannot use a specific device unless it has a “clean” tag. This new policy creates a safer and more effective way for staff to quickly access equipment that’s been disinfected and is ready for use.
Speak Up and Ask Me
Our “Speak-Up” Campaign has been effective in encouraging staff, patients and visitors to speak up when they have safety-related questions or concerns.
To further promote the BCH safety culture, we recently implemented the “Ask Me” initiative. All BCH patient care providers wear “Ask Me” buttons to encourage patients and their families to ask questions about any patient care issue. The goal is to increase communication among staff and between patients and caregivers.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has provided to the public hospital-specific infection rates for central line associated bloodstream infections and surgical site infections.
A central line is defined as an intravascular catheter, or tube, that ends at or close to the heart or in one of the major veins or arteries. In addition, a central line can be used to infuse fluids or draw blood in patients.
Surgical site infections are infections directly related to an operative procedure.
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