Healthcare News & Insights

2 unique ways to stop spread of hospital infections

To effectively fight hospital-acquired infections, facilities need to have several different approaches in their arsenal, including some that may not immediately come to mind when evaluating an infection-control program. 

male-doctor-female-patientRecent research shows that two of these unique strategies are effective at preventing the spread of various infections.

Blueprint for success

When trying to keep patients from contracting infections, hospitals might not think to start drawing up blueprints for renovations – but this could be critical to keeping germs at bay.

A new Cornell study, published late last month in the Journal of Critical Care, found that hospitals with more private, single-patient rooms have lower infection rates.

And although renovations can be expensive, it’s actually much cheaper to construct private rooms (or convert multi-patient rooms to private ones) than it is to treat hospital-acquired infections.

According to a statement from Cornell, researchers compared renovation costs to the expenses incurred through infections, such as longer hospital stays and extra support services from staff.

The result: Hospitals got a lot more bang for their buck from private rooms. Not only did they reduce infection rates, but the savings actually offset the capital costs of adding extra private rooms.

Grandma’s wisdom

Another infection-fighting practice may be ignored by many facilities because it’s an “old-school” approach: Using bleach-based cleaners in all areas of the hospital.

For many hospitals, bleach has fallen out of favor as a cleaning agent because it’s not seen as environmentally safe, it can leave a dull finish on floors, it tends to corrode equipment, and patients and visitors often complain about the smell, noted an article in the Wall Street Journal.

But the head of Mount Sinai Hospital’s infection-control program, Dr. Brian Koll, won’t stop making staff use bleach to clean the entire hospital, regardless of any complaints. Growing up, Dr. Koll saw his grandmother keep her home spotless with bleach, and he’s stuck with her technique at Mount Sinai.

It’s not just because of sentimental reasons, though. The liberal use of bleach has actually lowered rates of C. diff throughout the Mount Sinai health system.

Past studies have shown, once patients contract C. diff, using bleach to clean their rooms reduces the chance of it spreading to other patients.

Since Dr. Koll took over infection control at Mount Sinai a year and a half ago, C. diff infection rates at three Mount Sinai hospitals have plunged below state averages. And other infections have decreased, as well – most notably surgical-site infections for cardiac procedures.

Some facilities already use bleach-based cleaners in containment areas where patients with C.diff are placed after they contract the infection. But fewer hospitals use bleach otherwise. In New York state alone, less than a quarter of facilities (22%) use bleach for daily cleaning.

Practical applications

In a climate where hospitals are being closely scrutinized for their infection rates, it’s crucial to explore any and all ways to reduce infections.

If your hospital is making expansion plans or renovating existing departments, consider adding private rooms or additional ones depending on your facility’s budget.

And if renovations aren’t in the cards right now, updating your normal supply order to include higher quantities of bleach-based cleaners is a step you can take toward preventing infections.

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