APIC Develops Program Evaluation Tool to Help Make the Business Case for Needed Resources

In the wake of healthcare cuts affecting essential programs such as infection prevention and control, the nation’s largest infection prevention association has designed a tool to help professionals assess the resources needed to improve patient safety.

The “IP Program Evaluation Tool” developed by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) will help infection preventionists assess the resources needed in their professional environments and make the business case to properly fund infection prevention (IP) programs.

Offered as a CD-ROM, the tool contains a multi-section assessment program to evaluate current infection prevention services and resources and conduct an objective program gap analysis. The new tool is being provided to current APIC members.

“The IP Program Evaluation Tool is an important follow-up to APIC’s 2009 Economic Survey, which found that budgets for infection prevention have been cut at many of our nation’s healthcare facilities,” says Kathy Warye, chief executive officer of APIC CEO. “With the rise in antibiotic resistance, prevention efforts are essential to combat the spread of healthcare-associated infections. We believe the new tool will assist our members in gaining the resources they need to protect patients.”

The tool provides a method of determining the appropriate mix of infection prevention resources within the current healthcare environment. Presented in six sections, it offers a flexible approach that takes into account the enormous variation in facility demographics, services offered, personnel, electronic surveillance tools, quality initiatives and job function of the infection preventionist.

“Because each organization is unique, there is no standard answer to the question of what resources a facility needs,” says Vickie Brown, RN, MPH, CIC, associate director of hospital epidemiology at UNC Health Care and project leader for the tool. “Completion of the tool will assist the infection preventionist in objectively assessing – and presenting to management – a summary of the services provided by the infection prevention program, as well as the gaps between what the program currently does and what it could or should be doing to safeguard patients.”

According to APIC’s economic survey, of nearly 2,000 respondents, 41 percent reported cuts in budgets for infection prevention in the last 18 months due primarily to the economic downturn. The survey also revealed:

• Cuts are affecting the essence of infection prevention – a quarter of respondents have reduced surveillance activities to detect, track and manage healthcare-associated infections (HAIs).

• Education budgets have been hard hit. Three-quarters of those whose budgets were cut have experienced decreases for the education that trains healthcare workers in preventing the transmission of HAIs. Half saw reductions in overall budgets for infection prevention, including money for technology, staff, education, products, equipment and updated resources; nearly 40 percent had layoffs or reduced hours, and one-third experienced hiring freezes.

• Cuts have impaired infection prevention programs – one-third of the respondents say cuts in staffing and resources reduce their capacity to focus on infection prevention.

• State laws requiring public reporting of healthcare-associated infections make it harder to focus on preventing infections, said half the respondents.

• Forty-five percent said they have less support to attend APIC events; 44 percent attend fewer meetings at their hospital or clinic; 42 percent have fewer environmental and walking rounds; 38 percent have cut education of staff, visitors and patients.

• Technology is lagging. Only one in five respondents have data-mining programs – electronic surveillance systems that allow infection preventionists to identify and investigate potential infections in real time enabling them to intervene quickly.

• Infection prevention departments are understaffed. Almost two-thirds of respondents have one or less than one full-time-equivalent position dedicated to infection prevention, while almost 90 percent have zero or less than one full-time equivalent for clerical or analytic support.

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