Facility-Related Strategies to Reduce Healthcare Associated Infections

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Feb. 8, 2017

Reducing healthcare associated infections (HAIs) is a clinical goal and business necessity for healthcare leaders.

Facility design, operations and management are powerful, yet often overlooked tools to control and reduce HAIs.

Infection control measures in these areas can decrease HAI rates and create cost-savings and revenue gains from value-based reimbursement contracts and lower operating costs.

facility management

Reducing Infections through Facility Design

Infection control should be as high an economic consideration as cost when building a new facility or renovating an existing site. Planning patient care space should involve determining whether the space has the optimum workflow design, and electrical, mechanical and plumbing capabilities to prevent infections.

An example of optimum environmental capability is the ability to filter air and maintain positive air pressure in an operating room to catch and expel airborne bacteria. An example of optimum workflow design is the placement of hand sanitizers and medical waste containers in patient rooms to minimize the chance clinicians will come in contact with something unsanitary between washing and touching the patient.

The focus during construction is often on designing attractive facilities that support healthcare delivery. Failing to include infection control costs in the initial facility design can lead to increased downstream operational costs.

facility management

Reducing Infections through Facility Operations

Designing to reduce HAI risk will only realize bacteria-fighting potential if the right operational procedures are in place.

At the top of the list is adequate cleaning and disinfecting of reusable medical supplies, devices, equipment and surfaces. While adequate cleaning seems like a given, “inadequate cleaning of flexible endoscopes” was named the number one technology risk to patient safety on an ECRI Institute ranking of the Top 10 Health Technology Hazards for 2016.

Maintaining and monitoring the performance of mechanical functions designed to mitigate the risk of infection also should be a high priority of hospital and health systems. They should have manual or automated systems to check, record and report performance data to facility managers who, in turn, should review that performance data to make any necessary repairs or adjustments.

Reducing Infections through Facility Management

Many health systems outsource plant or facility management functions. Consequently, it’s important for hospitals and health systems to actively monitor and manage the adherence of outside contractors to their infection-control policies. Contracts must specify the expected level of service matches infection control parameters.

Temporary contractors doing short-term projects like repair work should follow infection-control guidelines at their sites. This includes hand-hygiene protocols, vaccination and immunization requirements and protective mask, glove, gown and shoe cover rules.

Lastly, a good working relationship between a hospital’s lead infection preventionist and the hospital’s facilities management director is essential. By working together, the facilities director and infection preventionist can share information about scheduled maintenance and construction projects for the year and plan infection-control strategies for each of those projects.

The first step in leveraging that collaborative process is assessing the infection control risk posed by a facility’s current design, operations and management and then developing a comprehensive plan to mitigate that risk.

To learn more about the roles facility design, operations and management play in controlling and reducing healthcare associated infections, click here.

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