Monitoring, cleaning tech has little impact on quashing superbug spread

Most facilities have stepped up monitoring to stop the spread of the intestinal superbug Clostridium difficile, though those efforts so far are producing only incremental improvements, according to a survey of infection preventionists who are members of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology.

The survey of 1,087 members found that nine in 10 said they had increased emphasis on environmental cleaning and equipment decontamination practices to address C. difficile infection (CDI) since March 2010, according to an announcement.

The bacterium is linked with 14,000 deaths in the U.S. each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the spores have a long life. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services instituted reporting requirements that began in January for the hospital-acquired infection.

Among the survey findings:

  • Though 70 percent of respondents have adopted additional interventions to fight CDI since March 2010, only 42 percent have seen a decline in their facility's CDI rates.
  • 64 percent said they rely on observation, versus more accurate and reliable monitoring technologies to assess cleaning effectiveness. Fourteen percent said that nothing was being done to monitor room cleaning. 
  • Bleach was the most common agent used to fight CDI. Eighty-eight percent said they had not used two of the latest technologies--ultraviolet light and vaporized hydrogen peroxide.
  • Nearly four out of five respondents have used the APIC Implementation Guide on CDI to help identify or guide improvements. An expanded second edition features tools and resources for prevention programs.
  • Only one in five respondents (21 percent) have been able to add more infection-prevention staff in the past three years.

Despite the survey's findings, the CDC recently reported that hospitals are making headway in reducing healthcare-associated infections. It said central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSIs) declined by 41 percent between 2008 and 2011, especially in intensive care units and neonatal intensive care units.

State-based safety efforts that involve checklists and better communication have been tied to some improvements, as well.

A KLAS report from last fall found that most healthcare providers who use infection-control software are focused on meeting reporting requirements, rather than using it to monitor their hospital's acquired infection rates.

A majority of hospital-based infection preventionists involved in a study published in the American Journal of Infection Control, however, said that their facility's electronic health records system did not include modules or components that supported infection-control activities.

To learn more:
- here's the survey (.pdf)
- read the announcement
- check out the guide (.pdf)


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