Pharmacy OneSource Blog

Educating Infection Control and Antimicrobial Stewardship Professionals on the Science of Informatics

Posted on 01/20/16


Despite three decades passing since the first report of a computer system using microbiology data to identify patients with healthcare-associated infections (HAIs),1 recent published surveys have found that the majority of infection preventionists (IPs) are still performing manual HAI surveillance, resulting in an estimated 45% of the total infection prevention activity.

With the current trajectory of public reporting, continued emergence of multidrug-resistant organisms and mandated antimicrobial stewardship initiatives pushing that time allocation even higher, manual methods will be ineffective in meeting the demands for more data. Focus is now on fully electronic surveillance systems that perform HAI surveillance in entirety without case review, as well as assist with the identification of patients who may benefit from antimicrobial stewardship interventions. However, the effective use of electronically captured data will be dependent on the skillset of these professionals and their understanding of the strengths and limitations of output from algorithmic detection models.

It is exciting to note that the professional organizations − the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) and the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) – have educational opportunities planned in 2016 to assist their constituents with the evaluation of electronic surveillance systems and the use of these systems, not only as surveillance platforms but for clinical decision support.

APIC recently posted the following course on their website: “Healthcare Information Technology Virtual Learning Lab,” consisting of six modules with objectives aimed at describing the impact that technology can have on infection prevention and applying technology to infection prevention challenges. A session to be held at the SHEA conference in May 2016 is entitled “Informatics and Stewardship” with a focus on how information technology may assist stewardship programs. This education is critical to the successful adoption of technology into the workflow of these professionals with the ultimate goal of helping them to “work smarter” and improve patient outcomes.

 1 Evans RS, Larsen RA, Burke JP, et al. Computer surveillance of hospital-acquired infections and antibiotic use. JAMA 1986;256:1007-1011.

Topics: Infection Prevention

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).