Healthcare News & Insights

A different way to stop C. diff in your hospital

Does your facility dispose of its sharps with a reusable container? If so, this practice could actually be increasing your patients’ risk of contracting C. diff. According to new research, single-use containers may be the way to go. 

ThinkstockPhotos-492303913Rates of C. diff infections are on the rise in hospitals.

In fact, a recent study of C. diff infections showed nearly 500,000 patients contracted the infection in a single year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Out of those patients, almost 29,000 of them died within 30 days of their diagnosis.

And based on statistical estimates of hospital mortality rates, it’s likely that close to half of those deaths were directly related to C. diff, according to an article in Medscape.

Sharps disposal & infection

Statistics like these make it crucial for hospitals to do what they can to prevent the infection. While much focus has been placed on reducing antibiotic use, a separate study suggests that disposable containers for sharps may also make a significant difference in reducing C. diff rates.

As described in an article from Infection Control Today, researchers from Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia analyzed data reported via the 2012 Medicare Provider Analysis Review, looking at the frequency of C. diff infection in various hospitals through ICD-9 codes.

After reviewing information from over 600 acute care hospitals, researchers discovered that facilities with single-use sharps disposal containers had significantly lower rates of C. diff infection than hospitals that used reusable sharps containers – a 15% difference.

What most hospitals use

Single-use disposable containers for sharps aren’t that common in hospitals. Data from the Jefferson study show that close to 75% of participating facilities opted for a reusable container instead of one designed for single use.

But with infection prevention becoming more of a priority in facilities due to increased government scrutiny, stocking hospital rooms with single-use sharp containers could be helpful in fighting infections. Reusable sharps containers likely contain germs that can cause a variety of illnesses, and they aren’t all that easy to clean.

Making the switch

Given this information, it may be worthwhile for your facility to look into the feasibility of changing the type of containers it uses for sharp disposal. Whatever costs you incur from the switch could be offset by treating fewer cases of C. diff – and maybe even other hospital-acquired infections.

As a possible cost-saver, a hybrid approach may be your facility’s best bet: using reusable containers for patients who don’t have C. diff and single-use containers when giving injections to patients who do.

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