Sunday, July 5, 2009

Tech Helps Control Infections

Hospitals are cutting staff, resources, and education for infection prevention at a time when the prevalence of many healthcare-associated infections is increasing, according to the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology. The “2009 APIC Economic survey” found that out of the nearly 2,000 infection preventionists who responded, 41 percent reported reductions in budgets for infection prevention in the last 18 months due primarily to the economic downturn.

The survey was conducted March 2009 with 1,943 out of 12,000 APIC members responding. Three quarters of the people that responded to the survey work at acute care hospitals, with responses received from all sizes of facilities and hospitals.

According to the survey, three-quarters of those whose budgets were cut experienced decreases for the necessary education to train healthcare personnel in preventing the transmission of HAIs. Half saw reductions in overall budgets for infection prevention, including money for technology, staff, education, products, equipment, and updated resources. Nearly 40 percent had layoffs or reduced hours, and a third experienced hiring freezes.

The survey also found that only one in five respondents have data mining programs that allow infection preventionists to discover and investigate potential infections in real-time, enabling them to intervene quickly. Nearly two-thirds of respondents have one or less than one full-time staff person dedicated to infection prevention, while almost 90 percent have zero or less than one full-time staff person for clerical or analytic support.

“We are concerned by these findings,” said APIC 2009 President Christine J. Nutty, RN, MSN, CIC. “At a time when the federal government will be requiring hospitals to meet national targets for HAI reduction and infection prevention, departments at our nation’s healthcare facilities need to be growing, not shrinking.”

Therefore, the APIC recommends using surveillance technologies to help remedy the situation. The systems can be invaluable to streamline and facilitate the efficient review of relevant data, reduce infection prevention department time spent on surveillance and clerical tasks, and help with regulatory compliance.

The APIC recently released position paper “The Importance of Surveillance Technologies in the Prevention of Healthcare-Associated Infections” enforces the benefits of using automated surveillance to improve efficiency in terms of personnel and enforces the idea that as gains in efficiencies are achieved and more time is spent in prevention and intervention, healthcare administrators will see the added value of effective infection prevention programs.

Although the peer review literature is still limited on the cost effectiveness associated with electronic surveillance systems, two studies demonstrated substantial cost-effectiveness. Case reports from facilities or groups using electronic tools have reported significant reductions in infections and subsequent significant cost savings.