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Top 10 Infection Control Challenges

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, June 27, 2011

7. Reducing Clinicians' Unnecessary Use of Antibiotics
Another important topic for discussion is the effort infection control chiefs must make strategically and tactfully to reduce the use of unnecessary antibiotics in their facilities. Parodi noted that in the U.S. each year, "we prescribe 25 million pounds of antibiotics to humans, and about half are inappropriate for one reason or another – either the patient doesn't need the antibiotics at all, or the antibiotics are too broad-spectrum, covering too many strains, or they're the wrong dose, or wrong interval."

Coming soon to many hospitals will be concerted teams of physicians and pharmacists – antibiotic stewardship committees – who will identify those doctors and other clinicians who are prescribing inappropriately.

Understanding the scope of the issue may require re-education for the physician or even broader hospital-wide policies on how to treat certain conditions.

8. Engaging Housekeeping and Environmental Services Staff
Often among the lowest paid housekeeping and environmental services teams are being called upon to embrace the importance of work ethic and thoroughness in infection control for their patients and each other. 

How this takes place is a mixed-bag effort. Some strategies include having housekeeping staff meet regularly with nursing and physician teams, and even allowing them to engage directly with the patient. One hospital encourages its cleaning staff to pick flowers from the hospital grounds to bring to the patients whose rooms they clean.

9. Raising Levels of Vaccination Among Healthcare Workers
No one fully understands why so many healthcare workers – more than half in some settings – refuse to receive influenza vaccinations, although many feel that they themselves are not at risk for getting seriously ill. But Parodi says this will be an increasingly important topic in hospitals in years to come.

"It's not just an employee safety issue, it's a patient safety issue. We can't tolerate influenza occurring because it was related to a patient being hospitalized. The only way to do that is to make sure healthcare staff get vaccinated. You have to have the political will within your organization to get this done."

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