Why is Infection Control so Important in hospitals?
The CDC refers to Infection Control measures as the actions aimed at preventing or stopping the spread of infections within a healthcare setting. Infection Control and Prevention measures help ensure the hospital environment is as safe as possible for both patients and staff. These measures include an assessment of how infections can be spread and how they can be stopped as well as more detailed recommendations for known pathogens.
The importance of infection control was highlighted in the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. Despite the enforcement of standard infection control procedures between 2015 and 2017, a total of 70 ICU patients were found to have contracted Candida Auris, a potentially deadly fungal pathogen 1.
Following a DNA sequencing programme, the source of the outbreak was traced back to the disposable probe covers used on the axilla contact thermometer on the ward. Despite implementing increased cleaning measures, the infection continued to spread until the axilla thermometers were removed from the ward2.
Since then, John Radcliffe have switched to non-contact thermometers.
Standard Infection Control Precautions (SICPs)
Standard Precautions are the minimum infection prevention practices that apply to all patient care, regardless of suspected or confirmed infection status of the patient, in any setting where healthcare is delivered3. These practices are designed to both protect healthcare professionals and prevent infection spread among patients.
There are many standard infection control steps that hospitals should take within their protocols, we‘ve detailed five key areas below:
1. Perform Hand Hygiene
It sounds simple but this is one of the most vital Infection Control Procedures all healthcare personnel must take, through participating in the regular washing of hands.
WHO outlines 5 key moments for hand hygiene:
• Before touching the patient
• Prior to performing clean/aseptic procedure
• After any bodily fluid exposure risk
• After touching the patient
• After touching the patient’s surroundings
2. Placement and Infection Assessment
Transmission-Based Precautions are often used for patients who may be infected or colonized with certain infectious agents.
Before admission into the healthcare facility, all patients must be assessed for infection risks, as well as throughout their time in care. This will inform decisions about treatment.
3. Personal Protective Equipment
PPE has come to the forefront of everyone’s mind since the beginning of COVID-19 in light of the pandemic. It helps mitigate the spread of infection. Personal protective equipment should be worn by healthcare staff to protect themselves against exposure to harmful pathogens
4. Safe Management of Equipment
Any equipment introduced into the healthcare facility should be fit for purpose and intended for medical use. Where possible you should ensure the equipment comes with a robust service package. Staff members should be adequately trained on the safe use of this equipment.
One hospital study showed that contact thermometers and blood pressure cuffs were classed as NCME (Non-Critical Medical Equipment) and therefore not cleaned regularly, in fact 62% of thermometers were found to be contaminated with a harmful bacteria, staphylococcus aureus.
Non-contact thermometers such as the TRITEMP™ require zero plastic probe covers, and never touch the patient therefore reducing the amount of contaminated waste and optimising infection control.
With advances in technology, hospitals should ensure equipment is optimised for infection prevention and control.
5. Safe Disposal of Waste
In hospitals there are several different categories of waste ranging from domestic waste to contaminated waste (swabs, probe covers, dressings etc.) to high-risk hazardous waste (sharps, medical devices etc.)
Waste must be separated to avoid transmission of any infection, and to avoid sharps causing damage.
More than half of Hospital Acquired Infections are considered preventable4. By following standard infection control precautions strictly, this will minimise infection spread and improve infection control. Hospitals can also look to move to more innovative non-contact devices. If you remove contact, you remove infection risk.
All guidance should be adhered to in regards to infection control precautions to offer a holistic approach. Hospitals can take extra steps to further mitigate infection by looking at cleaning protocols for NCMEs and innovative technology which removes contact with the patient such as the TRITEMP™ non-contact thermometer