Infection Control: RTLS Can Be An Invaluable Tool in Helping to Contain Hospital Acquired InfectionsYesterday I can across a press release entitled: Housekeepers, Transporters May 'Inadvertently' Spread Hospital Infection. To summarize, the release outlined “one cause of the rampant hospital-infection epidemic may be the "inadvertent exposure" of hospital housekeepers and transporters to antibiotic-resistant "Superbugs" such as MRSA” and goes on to discuss “"Inadvertent exposure" results when hospitals fail to alert environmental and transport personnel in advance about isolation rooms holding infected patients.”
Note: “MRSA is a host organism causing sepsis, a blood infection which produces multi-system organ failure and is the leading cause of deaths in intensive care units. Extending the Cure's study said sepsis killed 20 percent of patients who contracted it after surgery. Pneumonia killed 11 percent of those who acquired it in a hospital.”
What I loved were the comments about automatically alerting hospital workers in real-time to the presence of infection, real-time communication of information about isolation rooms, reducing overcrowding and smoothing out patient flow. My recent WIIFM post took it a step further with the concept that the hospital can track who was in contact with someone with an infectious disease and taking the necessary precautions. All of this really highlighted one of the many ways an enterprise awareness network and associated RTLS applications can be used in the war on infection control.
Today I finally got around to reading my copy of the December 2009 issue of Materials Management in Healthcare Magazine, and was struck by an article in the Infection Control section entitled, Battling H1N1, by Bob Kehoe. The article includes results of a survey released in June by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, which validated than even in the face of influenza pandemic and other challenges, America’s hospitals are having to do more with less.
The survey highlighted the Top 11 challenges to cleaning and disinfecting the patient environment:
As I reviewed this list, I was struck that most of the challenges relate to through-put pressures, reduced staffing resources and associated need for increased efficiency; and reminders / staff education. Each of these challenges can benefit from an enterprise-wide RTLS.
Imagine … real-time notification of room vacancy to expedite start of the cleaning process; monitoring environmental services staff time spent in patient room cleaning to assure standards are met (est. 20 minutes for an occupied patient room; 45 minutes for a discharge room clean); increased productivity of staff who can immediately locate mobile objects that need disinfection anywhere throughout the facility and status notifications that indicate equipment has completed the cleaning / disinfection process. RTLS can even electronically store cleaning protocol standards for any type of equipment tagged which can be accessed at the click of a mouse ; or provide reminders/alerts on the role specific high-risk objects play in transmitting healthcare associated pathogens, and what measures must be taken to reduce the risk.
To further illustrate the value RTLS can play in the infection control dilemma, in June 2009 industrywizards.com (Dann Anthony Maurno, Louis Sirico, and Jill Abell) published a whitepaper entitled, Wireless Patient Tracking Can Help Halt Contagion, including Swine Flu. The BHAG (big, hairy audacious goal) here: It is time for our government to enact legislation requiring mandatory patient and caregiver tracking in hospitals and medical centers. We have a right to know if we have come in contact with a person who is contagious or if we have visited a location a contagious person recently occupied. Not only does it protect the individual, but the greater population. As Orwellian as this sounds, the real-time location systems (RTLS) and RFID technology already used in hospitals and medical centers throughout the US can significantly reduce the spread of swine flu and other contagious diseases.
With RTLS throughout the enterprise, hospitals can track patients, caregivers, equipment, and know for certain who has, and has not, come in contact with a contagious person or contaminated equipment; monitor disinfection protocols; help increase staff efficiency to allow more time to properly clean patient rooms, care areas and mobile equipment; and ultimately help contain the spread of infection.
Love to hear your thoughts!