What The Pandemic Taught Us About Infection Prevention
Contributed by Rich Feczko
Since the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the U.S., hospitals and health care providers have grappled with what the new normal looks like for infection prevention and patient safety. Of course, this has long been a central focus and top priority for everyone in the hospital space, and strict protocols around patient room cleaning have always been the norm. But the pandemic shined a light on the necessity and importance of considering a patient’s perspective of clean, ensuring the most robust internal protocols are in place and that the best technologies are being used to mitigate the threat of healthcare-associated infections (HAIs).
The Importance Of Governance And Standards
A myriad of healthcare environmental safety rules and regulations — including governmental and respected deeming authorities — support compliance with every aspect of operations, including Environment of Care, Life Safety and others. Adherence to those regulations is not only critical for patient safety, but also vital to allow healthcare facilities to continue to provide accredited clinical services.
Regulatory compliance in healthcare is such an important part of everyday operations that individuals are employed with the sole charge of ensuring compliance. Compliance in navigating regulations from external authorities such as The Joint Commission, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Emergency Care Research Institute (ECRI), Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), among others, must be woven through all policies and standards.
While the importance of external compliance cannot be downplayed, a primary catalyst for achieving operational excellence is also having in place internal standards that ensure environmental and patient safety. To operate as effectively as possible and ensure adherence to operational standards, it is critical for companies to invest in efficiency tools, which can include everything from secret shopper visits to leadership audits and third-party operational validation.
Best Internal Practices For External Compliance
High Profile Cleaning (HPC) and Operational Mitigation of Infectious Transmission (OMIT) are proven ways to help environmental service (EVS) providers adhere to national governance and standards protocols.
HPC is focused on clinical and patient spaces, serving multiple purposes. It includes providing a scripted patient interface to support the patient experience holistically, along with a laser focus on surface disinfection to mitigate harmful pathogens. These tactics are supported by robust learning and development opportunities for teams.
OMIT is a holistic approach to combating HAI events facility-wide. This method, aligned with the appropriate disinfectants, includes the cleaning of all areas of the facility, not just the obvious ones. During COVID-19, OMIT has proved to be an immensely valuable way to support mitigation efforts in lobbies, elevators and other non-clinical areas, as well as in clinical spaces. Providing special attention to high touch surfaces, coupled with innovative technologies that reduce surface and airborne pathogens, has made hospital spaces safer, while also enhancing the optics of clean for patients, visitors and hospital staff.
Metric-based intelligent innovation has emerged over the years as an effective way to optimize patient safety outcomes by reducing HAI events with environmental influence.
Throughout the pandemic, the use of ATP tools — the adenosine triphosphate luminometer surface measurement method — has helped validate surface disinfection in real time. The ATP tool allows for heightened focus on the highest touch surfaces, elevating attention on disinfection practices and the removal of harmful surface pathogens. This focus, coupled with the emergence and deployment of automated task management technology, allows for real-time validation of task performance and the ability to serve the environment and those within to the highest standard.
Over the past decade, many technological innovations for disinfecting have also emerged to mitigate HAIs. During the pandemic, the coordinated use of these technologies has kept patients and hospital staff safe across the country:
• Multi-tower UV-C technology: The multi-tower solution allows for optimized efficiency, expediting room throughput or turn times in the safest, most effective way.
• Electrostatic application: This allows for heightened focus within strategic isolation discharge cases, as well as restrooms and spaces that can be temporarily closed. Electrostatic has also helped augment manual protocols in a safe and controlled manner.
• Mobile airborne pathogen solution: Initially designed for sterile field areas and high-risk units, this solution has been helpful for applications in lobbies, cafeterias and other public spaces.
• Adjunct HVAC technology aligned with a hospital’s HVAC system has allowed for full reach, surface and air, relative to HAI mitigation. This solution allows for a more holistic approach to reducing harmful airborne or aerosolized pathogens.
As we continue to explore new methods, innovation and technology that supports the mitigation of HAI events in hospital and healthcare settings, the industry must remain laser focused and committed to patient and environmental safety in any circumstance we find ourselves in — pre-, current or post-pandemic. This demands strong internal standards to ensure compliance with external regulations and to protect overall patient safety experience.
Rich Feczko is the National Director of Systems, Standards and Innovation at Crothall Healthcare.