As HAIs Rise, New Methods of Counterattack Sought


Even the most rigorous infection prevention protocols come unraveled if compliance isn’t maintained. The challenge is that for busy health care professionals, remembering when and how to disinfect is just one of many competing tasks in an extremely busy day.

Delivering quality care to patients is something millions of health care professionals—including nurses, infection preventionists (IPs), and environmental service (EVS) team members—aim to do in over 6,000 hospitals in the U.S. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has introduced a new long-term threat for hospitals to navigate. In addition, it has also triggered an uptick in other serious infections.

A recent study in Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology states that 2020 saw an increase in health care-acquired infections (HAIs) due to the rise of COVID-19 hospitalizations. Infections including central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSIs), catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTIs), ventilator-associated events (VAE), and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteremia have all grown during the pandemic.

“This information emphasizes the importance of building stronger, deeper, and broader infection control resources throughout health care that will not only improve our ability to protect patients in future pandemics but will also improve patient care every day,” Arjun Srinivasan, MD, the associate director of health care associated infection prevention programs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tells Fierce Healthcare.

Overwhelming patient numbers, staff shortages, and lack of resources were (and continue to be) just some of the factors that put a strain on safety and compliance protocols within health care facilities during the peak of the pandemic. With hospitals at full capacity, health care providers were focused on treating patients and did not always have the ability, resources, or time to ensure thorough and proper cleaning was performed.

Encouraging Compliance

Even the most rigorous infection prevention protocols come unraveled if compliance isn’t maintained. The challenge is that for busy health care professionals, remembering when and how to disinfect is just one of many competing tasks in an extremely busy day. When caring for numerous patients, time is of the essence, and the ability to quickly wipe down equipment or disinfect surfaces with the pop of a lid and pull of a wipe is simple yet extremely effective.

In September 2021, the CDC announced it will invest $2.1 billion to protect health care workers and patients from COVID-19 and other infectious diseases; an investment that will aid in decreasing the number of HAIs throughout health care facilities.

A portion of the funding will support preventing infections in health care settings by using the latest in infection prevention resources and technology, including disinfecting and sanitizing products. Today’s health care facilities operate far differently than they did 20 years ago. However, the push to enhance ease of use and lower HAIs continues.

New Designs

In an ideal world, EVS teams would be able to perform a thorough terminal cleaning before new patients enter a room, while UVC disinfection would also be used as an extra layer of protection. But during emergencies—including a once-in-a-century pandemic—where rooms were in short supply, oftentimes, nurses would have to quickly disinfect a room as patients were present or swiftly moving in and out. Having easy-to-use wipes on hand reduces the number of variables associated with different people disinfecting a room.

Although practical, anyone who uses wipes—in a hospital setting or for personal care—eventually encounters some waste. With the narrow openings on the top, the canister or pack can dispense too many wipes at once, or the lid may only partially close after multiple individual uses in a day. This can cause the wipes to dry out, and with less liquid, they may not adequately disinfect.

Along with the frustration, this product waste can cumulatively impact a hospital’s bottom line, taking resources away from other critical areas. Practical concerns, including how to make sure a surface stays wet for the indicated contact time, or which disinfectants can be used on more porous surfaces sparked research and development efforts, and—hopefully—innovations that meet these important demands.

The introduction of single-use disinfection wipes was considered a game-changer by many in health care. Reducing the use of spray bottles and cloths can cut down on cleaning time while decreasing the risk of cross-contamination, which occurs when one cloth is used on multiple surfaces.

Debra Hagberg, MT (ASCP), CIC, is the director of clinical affairs for PDI. She has worked as an infection preventionist, in both health care and industry, for over 30 years with a background in clinical laboratory science specializing in clinical microbiology and infectious disease.

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