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10 Things to Look for from an Infection Control Vendor

Posted on 08/25/14

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For many infection prevention directors, selecting an infection control vendor of automated surveillance software can be a daunting task. Although surveillance is an essential part of prevention and control, all too often it consumes too much of an infection control staff’s time and energy, limiting the time available for essential educational and performance improvement efforts. Automated surveillance systems have the ability to streamline the process by facilitating efficient review of relevant data and promoting rapid identification of sentinel events and detection of outbreaks.

Vendors offer a range of functionality to address the basic elements of IP surveillance – automated capture of data that supports HAI and MDRO detection, but many have the capability to perform statistical analyses, NHSN exporting of CMS mandated reporting, and data mining. The right choice of an infection control vendor, however, depends on the objectives of the IPC program and the healthcare organization and if the vendor’s software is compatible with the information technology (IT) infrastructure of the organization.

When selecting an infection control vendor, ask these 10 questions:

  1. How broad a net does the surveillance system cast? Will the software capture data from all departments within a healthcare facility or throughout an entire healthcare system such as acute care, ambulatory, home or long-term care?

  2. What disparate data feeds will be available for the automated surveillance software such as admission/discharge/transfer, electronic medical record flowsheets and progress notes, microbiology, pharmacy, imaging, laboratories, surgery, operating room and elsewhere? What data, if any, must be input manually?

  3. What modifications to existing information technology systems or databases must be made to establish interface with the surveillance system? Many automated surveillance technologies require specific messaging formats for data elements.

  4. Does the software comply with the clinical document architecture (CDA) specifications for reporting HAI data to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention’s National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN)? NHSN is working on a direct import of data from vendor software and having this capability will promote accuracy and efficiency with mandated reporting requirements.

  5. Can the software create HAI data reports to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for auditing purposes?

  6. Does the software comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) Privacy Rule?

  7. Is the alert system customizable by end users? Excessive notifications create alert fatigue, which may cause significant events to be ignored. As end users learn more about what matters and how the system works, they need to carefully choose the sentinel events requiring prompt intervention.

  8. Can users see all the data, alerts, tasks, reports and analytics on an easy-to-read dashboard? Having to dig through layers of reports to find important information creates delays in performance improvement opportunities and may contribute to delayed patient intervention.

  9. Is data from the feeds received on a real-time basis?

  10. Who maintains the surveillance system and how much IT support is required by the hospital? Easy upgrades and minimal time and effort in maintenance of the system -- characteristic of cloud based or software as a service (SaaS) systems -- work best for most hospitals’ budgets and IT resources.

What other things do you look for when choosing an infection control solution?

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About the Author

Joan N. Hebden, RN, MS, CIC served as the Director of Infection Prevention and Control for 28 years at the University of Maryland Medical Center, Baltimore, MD. Her clinical background includes general medicine, oncology, and cardiothoracic intensive care. She has presented at national epidemiology conferences, participated in research regarding the transmission of multi-drug resistant bacteria, contributed chapters on infection control to nursing resource textbooks, and published in medical and infection control journals. Joan received her Bachelor of Science degree in nursing and a Master of Science degree in nursing education and trauma/critical care from the University of Maryland School of Nursing. She is certified in Infection Control & Epidemiology (CIC). Joan is an active member of SHEA and APIC and is currently on the Editorial Board of the American Journal of Infection Control (AJIC).