Maintaining safety precautions and preventing infections for patients in hospitals and healthcare facilities everywhere is of critical importance. In the United States, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that one in every 25 patients has at least one healthcare-associated infection on any given day and that these infections will cause death in one in nine of these patients. Similarly, the Canadian Patient Safety Institute (CPSI) has found that 220,000 people are afflicted with healthcare-associated infections in Canada every year, and 8,000 to 12,000 of those individuals will die as a result of acquiring a healthcare-associated infection.
From October 29 to November 2, the healthcare community in Canada will be observing Canadian Patient Safety Week. This is a reminder to review common procedures to maintain infection prevention and control and effective hand hygiene protocols to keep patients as safe as possible.
Patients are most vulnerable to infection when they are in a hospital or healthcare facility. The World Health Organization has found that the basic principle of infection prevention and control is hygiene1. They have determined that infections can be successfully prevented and controlled by following five evidence-based infection control strategies:
- Establish an aggressive hand hygiene program
- Clean and decontaminate the environment and equipment
- Implement contact precautions for any patient infected or colonized with a superbug
- Perform methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus screening surveillance on admission and at other times
- Regularly report superbug infection rates to frontline and hospital leaders
While establishing a hand hygiene program can be complex and challenging, it has the potential to be the foundation of a safe, high-quality healthcare system. For example, CPSI shares the following2:
- 80% of hospital staff who dressed wounds infected with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus carried the organism on their hands for up to three hours.
- 60% of hospital staff in contact with patients with Clostridium difficile infection were contaminated within half an hour without even touching the patient, merely from returning drug charts to the ends of beds!
- 40% of all patient-nurse interactions resulted in the same species of Klebsiella pneumoniae being transmitted to healthcare workers' hands, even with contact as light as touching the patient's shoulder.
- Meanwhile, simply washing with soap and water virtually eradicated these organisms.
CPSI has compiled The Hand Hygiene Toolkit that contains a number of tools and templates for supporting a wide variety of hand hygiene activities.
In addition to helping to provide extraordinary improvements in patient safety, this year’s Canadian Patient Safety Week theme is “Not All Meds Get Along.” This theme encourages patients and healthcare professionals to initiate medication reviews for anyone on five or more medications as errors can result in severe harm, disability, and even death. Patients and healthcare professionals are encouraged to ask five questions when discussing medication safety issues about which have been changed, which should be continued, how to use them properly and for how long, how they will be monitored, and if any follow-up is needed.
What can I do to promote patient safety?
Everyone can help promote patient safety, but your actions will change depending on your role. With the SHIFT to Safety initiative, CPSI suggests different actions for the general public, providers, or healthcare facility leaders. For example, the general public should empower themselves with information and tools so they can be a better advocate for healthcare safety. Healthcare providers should prioritize safety when they are caring for patients and work together as a team. Also, leaders should use tools and resources to help inspire and shift to a lasting and positive patient safety culture.
Incorporating procedures and establishing protocol is essential for patient safety. We can all help and together, we can keep patients safe in all settings.
For more information and additional resources, please visit Canadian Patient Safety Week.