How hospitals can maximize the full potential of infectious disease specialists

Hospitals that use their infectious disease specialists only to reduce hospital-acquired infections and prevent the spread of contagious diseases aren't maximizing their full potential, according to a blog post at Hospital & Health Networks Daily. 

Instead, organizations must consider establishing a team to oversee infection control and prevention (IC&P) that can provide guidance on other areas of risk, including disaster planning, and consulting on construction projects and equipment purchases, writes Susan Bleasdale, M.D., medical director of infection prevention and control at the University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System in Chicago. 

She recommends hospitals appoint an infectious disease physician to oversee the team and consult with the physician at the beginning of projects to avoid problems that may come up during the construction, such as whether the equipment and material can be disinfected or how to contain dust that may harm patients.

"Infection disease physicians can have a positive influence throughout a healthcare system, yet their full potential remains untapped at many facilities," Bleasdale writes. "Forward-thinking leaders recognize the value of employing IC&P-dedicated physicians, often more than one, to decrease infections and increase safety. Infectious disease physicians help facilities to achieve safety; improve quality, care and outcomes; and avoid penalties in a cost-effective way."

They also can assess which infection control interventions work well and which ones consume too many resources without much impact, according to Bleasdale. "Their expertise enables them to identify where the hospital is vulnerable, prioritize improvement practices and implement those practices."

Recent reports show that infection control specialists spend more time collecting and analyzing data than in implementing infection control policies.They typically spend five hours a day on data collection, leaving little time for other responsibilities such as rounding, safety drills, practice observation or answering safety-related questions.

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