Government Penalties Aren’t Preventing HAIs

In 2015, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) implemented the HAC Reduction Program in which payments to hospitals would be directly affected if their hospital-acquired conditions, including infections (HACs & HAIs), scores did not meet set standards and goals. Those facilities scoring lower than 75% would be financially penalized 1%. This nationwide penalty has cost hospitals over $350 million each year since it was enacted. The government has reprimanded 751 hospitals for having too many HAC/HAIs.

Despite the financial implications, it doesn’t appear that infection control and prevention has progressed much. There were 1.7 million HAIs and 99,000 patient deaths in 2018. They kill more patients than breast cancers, HIV, and car accidents every year – yet most people aren’t aware of this. CMS certainly recognizes that healthcare costs have reached $28-45 billion, yet the more protocols they put in place and fines they collect, doesn’t seem to make an impact.

Are There Solutions?
So, what is the solution? Before we can answer that, we must identify the problem. We know hand washing is the first and best way to prevent infection. Are staff not complying to the protocol as frequently as they should? Are hand sanitizers not well tolerated enough to make them want to comply (drying, cracking, chafing their skin)? Are they inaccessible? Are there too many patients and not enough time to wash hands in between? Many clinicians use them inappropriately, not using enough to thoroughly coat their hands and kill all the bacteria. Experts agree – solving hand washing non-compliance would make the biggest difference in reducing HAIs and patient mortality.

How about a quick wipe down of a patient’s room, bed rails, mobile IV poles, walkers, wheelchairs, and other hard surfaces that multiple people are touching?

A recent study determined that a patient’s bed rail is touched 256 times a day by multiple people yet disinfected only once. Imagine how many germs can cause infection right on that bed. Having an easily accessible, portable bleach towelette with broad-spectrum, fast kill power that staff can keep in their pocket is a good solution for this type of infection control.

Technology is having an impact on spreading infection as well. According to a recent survey, 83% of healthcare providers use their personal mobile technology devices within the hospital, and just 68% said they clean/decontaminate these devices regularly. It’s not just because of time or “it slips their mind,” but many devices can be damaged by the products used. It’s obvious that a new “must” best practice of decontaminating technology needs to be implemented. Hospitals will need to provide “technology safe” disinfectants for their staff.

Maybe it comes down to money in the form of enticements instead of penalties. Recently researchers from the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy (CDDEP) and Princeton University proposed a new idea – offering financial incentives and monetary compensation in the form of subsidiaries to encourage medical institutions to motivate HAI control measures. They have designed several payment models that can be applied. That recommendation is now being observed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A Multi-faceted Approach
Combating infection is not easily conquered by even the best hospitals. The infection control market is worth $28 billion with thousands of products and sterilization equipment readily available. Even with highly effective products and knowledge of the importance of using them, it seems as if the process of controlling infection is multi-faceted. It will require implementation of several solutions, including products that streamline and encourage compliance by being conveniently reachable and well tolerated, easy to follow and remember protocols, monetary incentives, and educational alerts, most effectively through technology. HAIs are preventable. It takes self-awareness, diligence, and discipline to stop them. These are some of the greatest strengths of medical professionals. This can be done. It’s simpler than you think.

Written by Maureen G. Edwards, Angelini Pharma Inc.

By delivering healthcare solutions, education, and the highest quality products, Angelini Pharma is dedicated to informing and empowering clinicians, patients, and the community the opportunity to combat the crisis of infection control with one purpose only – saving lives.

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This content sponsored by Angelini Pharma Inc.