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The Role of the Infection Preventionist in Choosing an IP Solution

Posted on 05/21/15


Infection prevention surveillance requires continuous data collection from multiple sources, aggregation and analysis of that data, followed by timely communication of findings to hospital staff and providers to improve care. For infection preventionists (IPs) responsible for identifying, tracking and reporting infections and high-risk patients, electronic surveillance offers a solution that enables IPs to identify potential healthcare-associated infections which can help improve patient care outcomes versus the use of  retrospective paper-oriented review of data alone.

The Association for Professionals in Infection Control (APIC) considers technology an essential domain of competence for infection preventionists as “more advanced analytical tools are increasingly important to support surveillance.”1 When selecting a surveillance system, IPs should ensure that the system can provide meaningful information that can provide actionable steps to improve patient care

At a minimum, an infection preventionist will want to advocate for a system that:

  • Interfaces with admissions/transfer/discharge, laboratory, pharmacy, electronic medical records and other hospital databases and automatically analyzes the data to identify potential infections and at-risk patients in real time.

  • Creates automated alerts to facilitate identification of an outbreak or emerging drug-resistant pathogen.

  • Provides decision support to clinicians that utilizes the facility’s or unit’s antibiogram and facilitates access to national guidelines for the selection, dosage and duration of antimicrobials.

  • Electronically transmits data to the National Health Safety Network (NHSN) to meet reporting requirements.

  • Minimizes or eliminates the need for manual data input to NHSN or management reports and enables easy tracking and graphical representation of trends, interventions and recognized benchmarks.

  • Employs algorithmic detection of potential healthcare-associated infections, and presents a short list of at-risk patients to the IP for analysis and follow up.

  • Alerts the IP to patients with potential multidrug resistant organisms on admission and enables real time management of patients flagged for isolation precautions.

  • Permits historical tracking of patients infected with resistant organisms as recorded by the microbiology laboratory to identify where they have been and which patients may have been exposed.

  • Enables reporting of impact of these healthcare-associated infections and interventions on length of stay, costs, morbidity and mortality.

  • Allows clinicians to quickly create queries or change alerts to meet evolving needs, such as surveillance for potential measles cases prompted by a rise in the number of cases in the community-at-large, without the involvement of the hospital’s IT department.

Have you participated in the selection of an infection prevention system? What capabilities did you consider most important? Let us know in the comments below.

1 Murphy DM, Hanchett M, Olmsted RN, Farber MR, Lee TB, Haas JP, Streed SA. Competency in infection prevention: a conceptual approach to guide current and future practice. Am J Infect Control. 2012 May;40(4):296-303.

infection prevention

Topics: Infection Prevention

About the Author

Tim McMenamin has more than 30 years of experience in the Hospital Information Technology (HIT) industry and has been an active member of HIMSS, ASHP, HFMA and other healthcare communities for many years. Leveraging emerging technologies to deliver clinical content to the point-of-care has been an area of special interest and research.