Pursuing Perfection and Making a Business Case for Infection Prevention

Our newest online monthly poll asks, Do you know how to make an effective business case for infection control and prevention to your hospital administrator? So far, its an overwhelming No, with more than 70 percent of respondents indicating they are not able to make this vital connection with their healthcare facilitys administration. By now, most of these individuals recognize that healthcare-acquired infections (HAIs) affect their patients, but not enough healthcare executives have a clear idea of just how debilitating an HAI is to costs and operating margins. Whats more, many infection control practitioners (ICPs) dont have a clue, either!

A recent study indicates that out of 1.69 million admissions, patients with an HAI reduced overall net inpatient margins by $286 million, or $5,018 per infected patient. But we know this doesnt have to be the case, and that HAIs are controllable and preventable if rigorous infection-prevention principles and practices are observed. And thats where you, as an ICP, come in, of course. You already know what it takes to avoid HAIs, now its time to work backward and demonstrate to your administrator the business case for infection prevention.

I know math is scary, and that number-crunching may not be your forte. But making this business case for your program is a skill set that you need to acquire, perfect, and use at every possible opportunity, because the fate of not only your program, but the fate of your patients rests on your action or inaction. I encourage you to access a copy of the excellent new white paper, Dispelling the Myths: The True Cost of Healthcare-Associated Infections, produced by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC). (This document can be downloaded at http://www.apic.org/Content/Navigation-Menu/PracticeGuidance/Reports/hai_whitepaper.pdf)

The paper, written by Denise Murphy, RN, BSN, MPH, CIC, vice president and chief safety/quality officer at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, and Joseph Whiting, MBA, FACHE, chief executive officer of JKW Consulting, emphasizes that pursuing perfection, setting HAI reduction strategies at the theoretical ideal (zero preventable infections), represents a substantial opportunity for hospital leaders to improve safety, quality and significantly reduce cost. HAIs should interest administrators, because infections hit these folks square in the wallet. A 2005 survey of hospital CEOs ranked financial challenges as the No. 1 concern, so while the C-suite is busy contemplating its bottom line, you should be directing their attention to the fact that HAIs cost as much as $6 billion annually, and result in as many as 100,000 deaths in the United States. The APIC white paper provides solid instruction on how to calculate the costs of HAIs in your facility (an HAI cost calculator is coming soon to the APIC Web site), and suggests that once you have this data, to use this information to target an area that has significant opportunity for improvement, and to pursue perfection.

Heres to dispelling myths, and making perfection a part of your daily work life!

Until next month, bust those bugs!

Kelly M. Pyrek
Group Editor, Medical Division
kpyrek@vpico.com

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