Healthcare News & Insights

2 approaches to reduce hospital-acquired infections in patients

In the battle against hospital-acquired infections, two recent studies can give hospitals insight about how they should design their infection-control programs.

sb10069454i-001The first study focused solely on reducing the likelihood that patients would contract sepsis. Because sepsis is now the 10th leading cause of death in the country, it’s important for hospitals to keep patients from falling ill with it.

Researchers at Detroit Medical Center wanted to see if taking an education-based approach to sepsis would keep patients from getting the condition, according to a news release from the National Association for Healthcare Quality.

Four hospitals affiliated with Detroit Medical Center decided to start using teaching tools from the Surviving Sepsis campaign, a worldwide program with the goal of eliminating sepsis. Clinicians were given targeted education about how their behavior could reduce the chance of patients dying from sepsis.

Specifically, researchers wanted to determine if doctors who were armed with this info would get better at getting antibiotics to patients quickly – and if they’d be more likely to perform blood culture tests to check for any heightened infection before administering the drugs.

The approach seemed to work. Not only were doctors more likely to take blood cultures from patients before giving them antibiotics, the time when an at-risk patient started antibiotic treatment after being tested went from a mean of 182 minutes to a mean of 92 minutes.

So there are benefits to specifically training providers about behaviors that can reduce sepsis.

Going extra mile

While education on its own can be effective, another recent study took a more comprehensive approach when looking at reducing hospital-acquired infections, specifically surgical site infections.

In this study, published in JAMA Surgery, researchers at Duke University Medical Center looked at whether a bundled, multidisciplinary approach to infection prevention would reduce surgical site infections in patients who had colorectal surgery.

The bundled approach uses best practices for a variety of procedures related to a specific surgery, with the goal of reducing infections overall. The practices are either evidence-based interventions or common-sense tactics, according to an article published in Infection Control Today.

Besides distributing educational materials to surgeons, elements of the bundled approach to colorectal surgery included taking disinfecting showers before surgery and an increased focus on wound care for patients.

The immediate results of taking the bundled approach were favorable. When comparing patients cared for with the bundled approach to those who weren’t, there were fewer superficial surgical site infections among patients cared for with the bundle (5.7% vs. 19.3%). And patients in the bundle group had lower rates of post-op sepsis (2.4% vs. 8.5%).

However, the bundle’s effects on other factors, such as rates of deep surgical site infections and total length of stay, were inconclusive.

Exploring options

While more research is needed to determine exactly which approach would be best to prevent deadly infections in hospitals, it couldn’t hurt to implement some of the low-cost options, such as encouraging pre-surgery showers or disseminating educational materials to clinicians.

Hospitals may also benefit from providing doctors and nurses with refresher training about key items such as best practices for wound care and blood testing patients who show signs of infection.


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