Research correlates health IT and best practices in infectious control

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Hospitals that adopt advanced computer technology to identify healthcare-associated infections are more likely to have implemented best practices to prevent such infections, according to a study presented July 12 at the 37th annual conference of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC).

University of California, Berkeley researchers surveyed quality directors of 241 general acute-care hospitals from October 2008 to January 2009 to analyze the relationship between hospital use of automated surveillance technologies and implementation of evidence-based infection control practices.

The results showed that the one-third of California hospitals that use computer technology to identify infections on a timely and accurate basis also make other important changes in providing care. Specifically, hospitals that use automated surveillance systems to identify HAIs were more likely than those that rely on manual methods to have fully implemented research-based practices to reduce methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections (85percent  vs. 66 percent), ventilator-associated pneumonia (96 percent vs. 88 percent) and surgical care infection practices (91 percent vs. 82 percent).

“Our findings suggest that hospitals that use automated surveillance technology are able to put more HAI elimination strategies into place that will ultimately reduce the risk of infection,” said the study's lead author Helen Halpin, PhD, a professor of health policy at University of California, Berkeley. “Manual identification of infections is costly, time consuming and diverts staff time from prevention activities. The advantages of automated surveillance are enormous in an era where the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and many private insurers will no longer pay for the additional costs attributable to certain HAIs and many states report infection rates publicly.”

Halpin’s research, however, did not show that hospitals that use automated surveillance technology have lower rates of infections.

In a related position paper, APIC further established the case for automated surveillance technologies as an essential component of infection prevention and control activities. The association said the benefits of automated surveillance include:

  • Efficient review of relevant data, promoting rapid detection of sentinel events and outbreak detection by reducing dependence on manual methods of HAI identification;
  • Ability to expand and better define scope of infection prevention activities, often by focusing efforts beyond the ICU to medical and surgical floors;
  • Reduced time spent on surveillance and clerical tasks with studies reporting decreases of 65 percent;
  • Improved response to public health issues;
  • Regulatory compliance; and
  • Better financial performance via HAI avoidance.