Healthcare News & Insights

Germ cops: Newest tool to prevent hospital-acquired infections

Hospitals are finding that more active intervention is the most effective way to reduce the rates of hospital-acquired infections among patients.  While most hospitals have staffers assigned to the role of infection preventionists, at all but the largest hospitals, they’re usually handling more administrative work: documenting infection rates, updating medical staff on specific infections, etc. What they aren’t doing is walking the floors to oversee how patients are actually handled.

But that kind of direct observation of the physical contact patients get can make a huge difference in infection rates.

Take the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore. The hospital has a dedicated “germ cop” who observes all staff interaction with patients — from the chief of surgery to the janitors emptying garbage cans.

On a typical day, the infection control staff might remind a janitor to change gloves before moving a nurse’s cart in the hallway, advise a nurse to more closely shave the area around a patient’s catheter or point out to a doctor that he’s about to touch a patient without having washed his hands after examining the last one.

The process works: At UMMC, the surgical ICU has gone 24 weeks without a single case of infection, and hospital-wide, central line infections have been reduced by 70%.

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