6 Best Practices for Implementing an Effective Infection Control Program

Infection control is gaining widespread attention in all healthcare settings, including ASCs. Incorporating an infection control program is essential to minimizing the incidence of infection and patient revisits. Here are six best practices for ASCs looking to implement an effective infection control program at their facilities.

1. Monitor physicians and staff members. Denise Kesler, director of Athens (Ga.) Orthopedic Ambulatory Surgery Center, says the facility established a monitoring policy where staff members in each department, such as the OR, are selected to secretly monitor their co-workers compliance to hand hygiene protocols.

"It's done anonymously, so no one knows they're being watched," she says. "The monitor tallies up hand washing incidences on a monthly and quarterly basis, and that data is then delivered at a staff meeting. It makes the staff more aware, and compliance has improved greatly since we implemented this."

2. Regularly wipe equipment down. In addition to placing policies and procedures that reinforce compliance to hand hygiene, it is equally as important to make cleaning and wiping down of equipment a priority. After each patient visit, staff members at Athens are responsible for wiping down wheelchairs, blood pressure cuffs and anything else that patient may have come into contact with.

"We always re-emphasize that everything needs to get wiped down," Ms. Kesler says. "At our surgery center, it's usually the nurse attending to the patient that will go into the room this patient was in to make sure everything is wiped clean. But it's a team effort, because if that nurse is walking the patient out, somebody else will follow behind to clean up the room for the attending nurse."

3. Place hand sanitizers throughout the facility. Installing hand sanitizers throughout an ASC gives the facility an added reinforcement to fighting off infection. Athens installed hand sanitizer pumps and motion-sensor hand sanitizers on the walls of the surgery center. More recently, in the midst of ongoing construction, Athens has installed a motion-sensor hand sanitizer at the reception desk for patients and their family members to use as well.

"We've strategically placed hand sanitizers in multiple areas, so no one has the excuse of not having ready access to washing their hands," Ms. Kesler says. "Also, it's not only accessible to the staff and physicians but also the patients and their families. This way, patients are able to sanitize their hands in the patient area prior to surgery."

4. Install a washer sterilizer.
ASCs have the option of installing a washer sterilizer, which is a piece of equipment most supply companies offer that can help in sterilizing surgical instruments. Although buying and installing a washer sterilizer is a significant investment, Ms. Kesler says the investment is worth it in the long run.

"For decontaminating instruments, our staff used to do all that by hand, but we just purchased a washer sterilizer that we'll be using pretty soon," she says. "It's like a huge dishwasher that we'll be putting in a sterile work room, and what you would do is place your instrument trays and run it through the machine, which dispenses enzymatic cleaner, detergent and lubricant."

5. Train and test for competency in infection control. Janine Hathaway, administrator at Ashtabula (Ohio) Surgery Center, says an essential part of the center's infection control program is training and regularly testing staff members on various issues, including infection control. The surgery center commits to doing competency meetings twice a year to cover infection control issues by bringing in subject matter experts from various organizations, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, to re-train staff.

"We follow each competency day with a test so ensure each staff member is able to physically demonstrate competency, and actually we're really focusing on hand-washing hygiene because that's a huge issue across surgery center," Ms.  Hathaway says. "After each staff member takes their test for infection control, we keep those tests in their personnel files."

6. Incorporate infection-fighting materials. Dave Sands, architect at Baskervill in Richmond, Va., says ASCs can also use building materials that are proven to help fight off infection. Materials such as silver and copper are naturally able to kill bacteria, so working those materials into hand rails or using paint with those metals can help ASCs stave off infection.

"There are materials, like silver and copper, that are readily available today to make surfaces of a facility a fighter of bacteria," Mr. Sands says. "Copper does one of the best jobs and is actually something that is getting to be popular in emergency facilities and can go right along with ambulatory care."

Learn more about Athens Orthopedics Ambulatory Surgery Center.

Learn more about Ashtabula Surgery Center.

Learn more about Baskervill.

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