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Could scanning be the future?

March 20, 2015

In order to keep employees safe and ensure they are at the lowest risk possible, it's essential that medical organisations as well as individual employees need to stay abreast on the latest developments. Whether this is with legislation and national guidelines or through new innovative techniques, it can help keep employees motivated and engaged with their field and overall safety, as well as promoting the wider hospital as one that is up-to-date with the latest developments.

Both of these factors can only reflect positively on patient care and how prospective visitors view the hospital.

In the battle to keep needlestick injuries low and generally promote overall employee safety, this is especially important. Although the efficiency and positive impact of safety devices has been expressed by a number of studies, the uptake of both active and passive instruments is still much lower than what would be ideal. This can mean that not only is the safety of patients and healthcare workers, but can also be detrimental to the overall reputation of the organisation.

A recent study could indicate where the future of infection control is heading, which could have a knock-on impact on employee safety. 

Prevalence surveys are commonly used as a way to determine the prevalence of healthcare-associated infections (HAI), as well as the factors that affect it. However, one major flaw of this approach is that it only looks at patient-related variables. 

A new method was established called the “infection risk scan,” which includes outcome variables, as well as patient and ward-related ones. It is hoped that this will deliver a much more holistic view on the individual infection risk profile of a ward or the wider hospital.

In order to make this determination, the team of researchers looked at two outcome variables; prevalence of HAI and rectal carriage of Extended Spectrum B-Lactamase (ESBL) producing bacteria. 

They measured two patient-related risk variables - use of indwelling medical devices and antimicrobial therapy - and two ward-related variables - environmental contamination and hand hygiene non-compliance, according to the World Health Organization's (WHO) guidelines. 

Their results of all variables investigated were then split into either low, medium or high risk, based on the current literature base or expert opinion. These were then presented in a spiderplot and the infection risk scan was performed in four different general nursing wards.

The team identified a number of large differences in outcome variables and risk factors across all three risk categories. This resulted in different risk-plots for the different wards. However some matters, such as hand hygiene non-compliance and the environmental contamination, were a concern for all the wards tested.

The researchers concluded that the infection risk plot demonstrated substantial differentiation, while the plot could be easily understood by healthcare workers. All workers could clearly see the problems of the particular ward with a quick glance, and then implement targeted approaches to resolving or preventing these issues.

A similar approach could be taken to sharps safety, where the wards and departments most at risk could be easily identified by any members of staff at any time. According to the researchers of the study, their findings suggest that the infection risk scan could be a management tool used to determine the scope and focus of an infection control programme, but this could be developed into one for needlestick injuries.

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