Wednesday, June 11, 2014
Can preventing infection really save lives? The short answer is a definitive yes. After all, each
year, the lives of patients are lost due to the spread of infections in hospitals. Staph and other infections attack those with lowered immune systems. Health care workers are taking steps to prevent infection and control the spread of infectious diseases.
Both in and out of a hospital setting, the single most effective way to stop infections from spreading is hand washing. Patients should be encouraged to remind friends and family as well as their health care givers to wash their hands. Other steps are also pretty practical and basic - common sense that you would think more people would simply use by rote, and yet do not.
These steps include covering coughs or sneezes with one’s arm rather than hand, or not at all; keeping up to date on immunizations, and making both tissues and hand sanitizers available and within easy access. In the medical profession, it’s key to use gloves, masks, and protective clothing, as well as to carefully follow guidelines in regard to blood or contaminated items.
To prevent transmittal of communicable diseases in health care settings, infection prevention and control is simply necessary. Following a basic comprehension of disease epidemiology, health care staff should be aware of the risks that can increase patient risk, and the procedures and treatments that can present a fertile situation for infection to exist.
Just how risky is it for patients in terms of requiring an infection associate to health care? It depends on there things: the procedure that’s performed, the patient’s health to begin with, and the type of patient/care received.
And for health care staff? Well, health caregivers should be vaccinated against diseases, and wear proper clothing, such as gloves and masks, know as PPE or personal protective equipment. This specialized sanitary clothing is worn to protect against contact with infectious organisms. It includes respiratory protection. And of course following proper hand hygiene procedures such as hand washing, hand sanitizer, and instructing patients on proper hand hygiene is also vital. Outside and inside the medical setting, proper hand hygiene can eliminate about half of all foodborne illnesses as well as helping to reduce the spread of flus and colds. Injection safety is also an important way to prevent infection.
Let’s take a closer look at what’s known as HAI or Healthcare Associated Infections. These are infections that are acquired when patients are receiving treatment, whether for surgical or medical conditions. They can occur in any setting- doctor’s office, hospital, dentist. Precautions that reduce the possibility of infection are key, whether prevention is taken against transmission due to infection agents from environmental surfaces or from bodily fluids.
Patients should be conscious of infection risks, and be integrated into the process of preventing it whenever possible. How so? Patients who enter the hospital for surgery or receive outpatient surgical treatments, if the procedures are planned for, can lower their risk of infection by stopping smoking if a smoker, losing weight, if obese, and controlling blood sugar if diabetic. High blood sugar causes a noticeable uptick in infection risk. Other precautions should also be followed. For example, if a patient needs hair removed prior to surgery, using electrical clippers or depilatory cream is safer than shaving. Shaving with a razor can lead to infection vulnerability.
Another help is treatment with a prophylactic antibiotic within one hour before surgery - earlier or later administration just simply isn’t as effective as an antibiotic administered at that hour mark. Discontinuing prophylactic antibiotics within 24 hours following surgery is also important. Keeping the antibiotic administration going for a longer period can increase side effects as well as the possibility of antibiotic resistance.
Patients should also be encouraged to wash their hands carefully, and remind doctors, nurses and other medical staff to do so. Skin around any intravenous catheter should be kept clean and dry, as should any dressings on a wound. Asking friends and relatives not to visit if ill, is also key. While all of these aspects of infectious disease precautions are fairly simple, sometimes these are the techniques that work the best to inhibit disease spread and improve compliance.
There’s that word again, compliance. At MedTrainer, we’re here to help you comply with OSHA standards, with HAI prevention compliance, with all the rules and regulations that can seem onerous at times, but which are, in fact, ways to ensure a healthy, protected medical staff, as well as a health and protected patient.
In regard to HAI, signage is one crucial way to help with compliance and with heath. Signage that reminds workers to wash their hands for twenty seconds, and to use hand sanitizer really help. Placing soap dispensers next to the sink, and hand sanitizers in key locations such as bathrooms, hallways, and patient care facilities improves compliance greatly.
And what about the proper use of hand sanitizer? Is it enough to just use it? It needs to be used correctly. After all the CDC recommends using sanitizer for a full 30 seconds in order to disinfect hands. What, short of a stop watch, is going to help get that full thirty seconds in? Some dispensers now feature a flashing red light that stops only when thirty seconds is up.
MedTrainer can’t provide flashing lights, but we can provide the information about compliance issues such as these that helps to educate, inform, and instill techniques that can help greatly with HAI.
Speaking of hand washing and hand sanitization, even this process can lead to infection through occupational dermatitis, that can cause dry and cracked skin. Moisturizing cream helps.
Beyond hand cleanliness, another basic infection prevention process is cleaning of hospital rooms and examination rooms. Environmental cleanliness means physical cleaning plus disinfection. How to monitor this process? Again education and compliance techniques can help to prevent residual bacteria. Technology is also offering an assistance with super-oxidized water made of electrolyzed sodium hypochlorous acid, distributed through a wand spray device. Non-toxic, it leaves to residue and is non-corosive. When cultures have been taken to test the process on standard high-touch areas, residual bacteria present after standard cleaning dropped from an unpleasant 85% to 31% in HOCL treated areas. The treatment can also be used to prevent not just standard infections, but such severe infections as the methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
Once out of the medical care setting, of course, patients are still at risk from infections. Before going home, attention to detail about wound or incision site care is important, as is full understanding about to care for such a site at home. It’s still important at home to clean hands before and after caring for a wound. And it’s vital to know the signs of an infection at work, such as redness, pain, fever - all of which should be a signal to patients to call their doctor at once.