How EPInet helps the US healthcare sector monitor sharps injuries

Wednesday May 31 2017

Specialist needle safety devices are increasingly being talked about as the best way to prevent sharps injuries in healthcare settings, but some members of the industry believe that monitoring is the ultimate key to prevention.

Needle safety caps prevent syringes from being used on a patient if they are damaged or have already been used on another individual, subsequently preventing blood-borne infections such as hepatitis C and HIV spreading from person to person.

These devices are helping to reduce the number of sharps injuries that occur at hospitals each year, but on the occasions that they do take place, it is vital that they are recorded in a standardised way so the reasons behind them and the people affected can be monitored.

This is essential in helping to prevent future needlestick injuries, as experts believe they are posing a greater threat to people's health than ever before.

Speaking to Infection Control Today, Amber H Mitchell, president and executive director of the International Safety Center, commented: "Why sharps injuries are dangerous may seem like a pretty basic question, but it isn't. With emerging and re-emerging global infectious diseases, as well as global travel and immigration, sharps injuries related to patient care are more dangerous than ever."

So, how can sharps injuries be monitored in the most appropriate way?

Back in 1991, Janine Jagger of the University of Virginia created the EPInet surveillance system, which is a place where healthcare workers can record data relating to needlestick injuries that occur on their watch. This information can then be viewed by members of the public, including patients and their loved ones, providing hospitals and other healthcare facilities with an incentive to improve their sharps safety standards.

Ms Mitchell explained that EPInet "serves as the benchmark for the rest of the nation on sharps injuries - where and how they're occurring".

"It allows the public to stay aware of what's continuing to happen with sharps safety in healthcare facilities," she added.

EPInet requires healthcare workers to detail what type of needle was involved in each sharps injury, how the patient was affected, why it occurred and whether there were any long-term risks to the victim's health.

As this data is then made available to other medics as well as the general public, there is an opportunity for anyone to make suggestions of how processes could be improved in future, which could eventually lead to tighter sharps safety standards across the board.