Two Virginia hospitals first to receive infection risk certification

Two Virginia hospitals are the first in the country to receive certification in a new program aimed to transform healthcare organizations' approach to managing infection risk (MIR).

Sentara Leigh and Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospitals received certification from DNV GL's new MIR program, the agency announced during a press conference Wednesday afternoon.

The announcement comes in the wake of the public's awareness via the Ebola outbreak that infection control practices at hospitals across the country are often lacking and result in patients acquiring serious and sometimes deadly infections, such as MRSA.

"Every day millions of patients are treated at hospitals across the country and these patients deserve high-quality of care. One in 25 patients will get a hospital-acquired infection (HAI) in a hospital and these infections lead to a loss of thousands of lives per year," Patrick Horine, MHA, chief executive officer of DNV Healthcare in the United States, said during the briefing. "These infections result in $30 billion in avoidable costs and the healthcare industry is under an enormous amount of scrutiny to proactively manage the risk of HAIs."

Twenty-two hospitals are in various stages of the certification process, which involves a comprehensive look as to how and why these infections occur; a proactive approach that goes beyond current regulatory requirements to make sure staff receive proper training; and a rigorous standard to ensure all staff are aware of the role they play in infection control, according to Stephen McAdam, M.D., global technical director for healthcare, DNV GL business assurance.

Scott A. Miller, M.D., vice president of medical affairs at Sentara Leigh Hospital, said that the hospital's infection practices weren't bad prior to starting the certification process but the organization had the  "wrong culture" and thought infections were part of the process when staff take care of sick patients. "But we knew we had to get better. We felt we were continually trying to do the same process better and we weren't finding any magic bullets," Miller explained during the press briefing.

The certification process allowed the organization to take a systematic approach to infection control and engage the entire hospital in a way that hadn't been done before, according to Miller. "Infection control had the reputation of being a 'Gotcha, you didn't wash your hands you didn't tie your gown up right.' While that was important, it was this process that got the hospital to realize we all have a part in preventing infections in our patients," he said.

Peggy Braun, R.N., vice president of patient care and nurse executive at Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital, agreed, stating the process empowered staff who normally wouldn't speak up to present ideas. For example, one of the hospital's maintenance staff worked with the medical director of the intensive care unit at her hospital to create a motion sensitive light that illuminated when staff walked into a patient's room to remind them to wash their hands. "That was unheard of two years ago to get that level of engagement with clinical and non-clinical staff. It is making us better than we were," she said. 

Since Virginia Beach General undertook the certification process, Braun said its hand-hygiene audit compliance has doubled compared to 2013, and is currently at 99 percent. Sentura Leigh now boasts a 47 percent increase in surface cleanliness in the past year.

The biggest shift that occurred was in the organization's culture to look for ways to prevent infections, rather than just respond to them, according to Braun.

"As we identify potential risks, we then develop action plans around risk assessment, and prevent something from happening and share lessons with sister hospitals," she said.

To learn more:
- here's the announcement