First-of-its-kind study reveals contrary keys to infection control
Basic hygiene and better technology are the contrary keys to preventing and controlling infections in hospitals, a first-of-its-kind study shows.
Findings from the study, published in the June issue of the American Journal of Infection Control, suggest the cost of employing nurses for infection control in public hospitals across Australia is about $76 million a year. With the average number of infection control professionals at less than one per 100 overnight beds, the onus is on hospitals to continuing saving money by improving practices that lead to better patient care.
Healthcare-associated infections are common. Multiple studies show about 200,000 public hospital patients acquire an infection each year. This is becoming more of a problem as resistance to antibiotics increases—consumption in Australia is, according to figures released by the federal government on June 2, among the highest in the developed world.
“We’re relying more and more on good old fashioned infection prevention and control practices like cleaning and hand hygiene,” says lead researcher Dr Brett Mitchell, an associate professor of nursing and director of the Lifestyle Research Centre at Avondale College of Higher Education.
The “enthusiastic” response to Mitchell’s presentation of the findings at the 25th European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases in Copenhagen in April demonstrated worldwide interest in the study of basic hygiene. “It’s imperative we all understand how we’re resourcing infection control and what the priorities are for those working on the front line,” says Mitchell.
The priority for those responding to Mitchell’s study: better information technology resources for infection control. “Good quality IT programs and systems help nurses identify infections and problems in drug resistance more effectively and efficiently,” says Mitchell. “Then they can intervene more quickly. Reducing any sort of delay is better for everyone—hospitals and patients.”
Mitchell’s study—he is collaborating with colleagues at Queensland University of Technology, Australian Catholic University and Gold Coast Health District—is the first to estimate the cost and the resourcing of staffing infection control in hospitals on a national level. Its findings are based on responses from 49 anonymous online surveys accounting for 152 public hospitals, including those on the Central Coast and in the Hunter.