It’s no surprise that infection control is absolutely paramount when it comes to patient care and disease prevention. From team training on proper sanitation practices and antimicrobial devices such as medical grade computers to initiatives such as the US Department of Health’s HAI prevention action plan, sanitation is a tenant that’s strictly adhered to from the bottom rungs of a healthcare facility all the way up to its top. And it’s beyond likely we’ll see these sanitation efforts compounded as actions are taken to quell the recent outbreak of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus.

We’ve already begun to see a doubling down on proven infection control strategies. In a recently sent out memo, providers were reminded by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to review all information available on the Coronavirus and also bolster their compliance with infection control and prevention policies.

So, what exactly does that look like for providers in the midst of today’s and future outbreaks? More specifically, how can providers go above and beyond to protect not only their patients, but their staff as well.  

Cut Down on Exposure Opportunities

When dealing with respiratory pathogens in particular, it’s essential to limit exposure to healthy patients before an infected patient even enters a facility. When scheduling appointments, make it a common practice to have patients call ahead and notify the staff of their arrival if they’re exhibiting symptoms in line with the current outbreak. Doing so can ensure the patient can be met outside of the facility and taken through an entrance or route that doesn’t expose them to healthy patients in, say, the lobby. 

In the case of the Coronavirus, the symptoms to look out for include coughing, runny nose, fever, and chest pain. Be sure to also educate patients as well as those accompanying them to wear face masks and take any other preventative measures to avoid spreading infection. 

Once inside the facility, any patients that are suspected of being afflicted with the virus or infection in question need to be removed from the general patient population. For areas set aside for infected patients, well-ventilated rooms are essential. Furthermore, these rooms should have ample access to hygiene supplies that are for the infected population’s use and removed from the facility’s general population. Depending on the infection occurring, the supplies may vary, but a few that are almost always welcome are extra face masks, alcohol-based hand sanitizer, and tissues.

Manage Patient and Visitor Movement

On the topic of keeping infected patients away from healthier ones, managing patient movement can help your staff ensure visitors aren’t leaving quarantine and infecting others. Taking the effort to implement a patient tracking system can pay off in dividends both during and after an outbreak.

Thankfully, RFID bracelets and scanners can provide a very potent system for patient and staff tracking. By having patients in quarantine wear one of these bracelets and installing a real-time locating software on your medical panel computers, you can ensure the proper staff is notified in case an infected patient leaves their quarantine. 

You’ll also want to limit movement and interaction between guests and visitors. Video-calling applications can provide a convenient solution that allows patients to interact with their loved ones even if they’re unable to physically be in the same room. Medical grade tablets are ideal for these video-calling apps, especially during highly infectious outbreaks, because of their antimicrobial properties. 

Be wary not to invest in device manufacturers that only apply an antimicrobial coating on the outside of their devices, as these coatings and sprays degrade over time and lose their efficacy. Shopping, instead, for computers and tablets with antimicrobial agents baked into the resin and bonded to the touch glass of the devices themselves is recommended. Devices such as these won’t have their antimicrobial properties wiped away after repeated disinfections (which are sure to be beyond common in the case of an outbreak).

       

Don’t Forget Environmental Infection Control

While infection control at the patient to patient level is surely essential, environmental infection control needs to be given a fair share of attention as well. All it takes is one un-sanitized tool, utensil, or room to infect a healthy patient who can go on to infect several others before they’ve even been diagnosed or quarantined. Fortunately, RFID capabilities can kill two birds with one stone by addressing both patient to patient and environmental infection control.

Applying a bar code to surgical tools and equipment allows you to scan these items into a system and mark whether or not they’ve been disinfected. With this capability in place, a doctor can scan a tool after it’s been used on a patient and mark it as “soiled” before it’s sent off to be sanitized. From there, whoever sanitizes the tool can then scan it back into the system and mark it as “clean.” The next time a caregiver uses that tool, all they’d need to do is scan the tool into the system and confirm whether it’s been sanitized. 

Of course, it’s not just tools used on patients that can be infected. Computers, workstations, even the rooms a patient resides in need to be addressed. Investing in antimicrobial medical cart computers and tablets that are fanless can ensure two things: that the devices themselves won’t spread infection, and that harmful bacteria won’t be circulated around the room because of a PC’s internal fan.    

Train Your Staff on Proper Infection Control

It takes more than some new equipment and a few vigilant physicians to make a dent in an outbreak. It’s up to the entire staff of a healthcare facility, not just doctors and nurses, to be cognizant of their sanitation efforts in order to avoid further infection.

Always make sure your staff, from its highest levels down to its lowest, is aware of proper sanitation procedures and don’t be afraid to review them in cases such as an outbreak where the watch needs to be more vigilant. Proper hand washing procedure is always a good topic to revisit and review as it’s one of our primary methods of defense against costly hospital acquired infections. The CDC actually has a very useful page that breaks down proper hand washing procedure, when to use hand sanitizer vs when to use soap and water, and much much more.  

Infection Control is Constant

Infections come and go but our methods for dealing with them have stayed largely the same. Proper sanitation and infection control are invaluable skills for both patients and healthcare staff and investing in them is never a wasted effort. For more information about how your team can improve their approach to infection control both in and outside of a virus outbreak, contact an expert from Cybernet today.