Infection-control staff say EHRs not designed to help

Though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that hospitals are making headway in reducing healthcare-associated infections, a new study finds that for those on the front lines, their organizations' technology doesn't support them in their jobs.

Previous research from the non-profit Regenstrief Institute and other academic institutions has shown that health information exchange can improve reporting of infections to local and state agencies. This study, however, found hospital-based infection preventionists (formerly known as infection control professionals) often unaware of whether their organization was involved in an HIE.

The study, published in the American Journal of Infection Control, is based on a poll of 44 IPs. While more than 70 percent reported access to an electronic health record system, less than 20 percent of them were involved in the design, selection or implementation of such systems. The systems in place, respondents said, generally did not include modules or components that supported infection-control activities, according to an announcement from Indiana University School of Medicine.

Just 10 percent reported that their organizations were involved in an HIE; 49 percent were not aware whether they were.

"We found that while hospital-based infection preventionists--the people on the front line--may have access to health information technology, they lack specially designed computer tools needed to sift through the massive amounts of data in electronic medical records," said lead author Brian Dixon, a Regenstrief Institute investigator and assistant professor in the School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. "We learned that hospital infection preventionists are frustrated with inefficient lists of patients whose electronic medical charts they must examine individually. They say they want electronic alerts and reminders when the system detects something of potential importance. There needs to be concerted R&D to meet this gap in decision support." 

A study published in the February issue of the American Journal of Infection Control found that having dedicated infection-prevention personnel may boost evidence-based prevention practices. However, a KLAS report from last fall found that among healthcare providers with dedicated infection-control software, the majority use it to ease the burden of government reporting rather than to monitor their hospital's acquired infection rates.

Using a lower-tech approach, nine state-based teams helped 100 hospital neonatal intensive care units reduce central line-associated bloodstream infections in newborns by 58 percent in less than a year through the use of checklists and better communication. The Comprehensive Unit-Based Safety Program saved more than $2 million, according to an Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality report.

To learn more:
- read the abstract
- find the announcement