With the advent of a new year brings speculation regarding what challenging issues may be in store for infection preventionists (IPs) in the upcoming year. I read with much interest the responses to a 2016 outlook survey of IPs reported in the January issue of Infection Control Today.1
According to the respondents of the online survey, surveillance-related tasks required about 45% of their time and attention this past year. Approximately half of the respondents also stated that they do not foresee their tasks changing significantly in 2016. When queried about what the IPs believe to be the most important issues facing them for 2016, the two largest categories pertained to ensuring healthcare personnel compliance to IP practices, and keeping up with regulatory mandates.
In response to the survey question related to the most important issues facing the IP and hospital epidemiology community as a whole, top 3 concerns were: keeping up with evolving infection prevention imperatives, addressing antimicrobial resistance, and advancing patient safety/quality improvement.
Maybe it’s because I work for a technology company or because I watched the Steve Jobs movie on Netflix over the holidays, but from my perspective, I believe that technology can play a significant role in each of these issues. Infection surveillance software enhances surveillance-related tasks, which can contribute to a decrease in data collection efforts and an increase in time for rounding and educational activities. With increased use of automated surveillance tools, a substantial reduction in surveillance-related tasks would be reflected in future surveys. Wouldn’t it be great to report that only 10% of your time was spent on surveillance-related tasks?
Use of technology as a tool to alert the IP about increases in healthcare-associated infections or identification of MDRO clusters elicits immediate response with investigation into IP compliance issues or changes in protocols or products. Additionally, surveillance technology can play an integral role in antimicrobial stewardship as part of the evolving epidemiologic imperatives while streamlining reporting tasks relative to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) pay-for-performance directive. Lastly, the use of technology can improve patient safety and quality by alerting to potential adverse events, patients in clinical demise, and opportunities to change treatment with better options.
So where does technology fall within the IPs perception of most important issues? Interestingly, respondents to the online survey placed mastering technology at only 3% of the most important issues facing the IP community in 2016. This low percentage concerns me given the benefits that technology provides and the continuing evolution of electronics and automation within healthcare. More effort and emphasis needs to be directed towards embracing technology to its fullest to advance patient safety in healthcare.
Does embracing technology fall within your 2016 goals? Submit your thoughts on the challenges of IP and technology or how you have embraced technology within your institution.
- Pyrek, Kelly M. “2016 Outlook: The Infection Prevention Imperatives”, Infection Control Today. January 2016; vol. 20 No. 1.