Expert Urges HTM Field to Prevent Infections

As he spoke on the final day of the AAMI 2015 Conference & Expo, George Mills, director of the Department of Engineering at the Joint Commission, told a packed room that healthcare technology management (HTM) professionals can play a key role in curbing an easily preventable cause of patient deaths.

According to Mills, 770,000 patients are affected by hospital-acquired infections each year. Of that number, approximately 80,000 die. “Who thinks that’s an acceptable number?” he asked.

While it may seem like a simple solution, hand hygiene can play a major role in preventing these infections, he said. This emphasis needs to be ingrained in the culture of HTM departments, he stressed.

Mills’ plea comes roughly six months after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a report saying there has been significant progress made to cut down on the number of infections. Still, the statistics are sobering. “On any given day, approximately one in 25 U.S. patients has at least one infection contracted during the course of their hospital care, demonstrating the need for improved infection control in U.S. healthcare facilities,” according to the report.

On a related note, Mills also stressed the importance of adequate endoscope reprocessing. These pieces of medical equipment have garnered intense scrutiny as infections caused by carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) have been reported in North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Chicago and Seattle. These infections have been linked to a complex type of endoscope.

“We are hurting and killing people,” says Mills, who urged hospital officials to go down to sterilization areas to see what’s occurring. A fresh set of eyes could see a potential patient safety problem, such as an endoscope being stored too close to a soiled area.

He noted that inadequate reprocessing of endoscopes and surgical devices yet again made ECRI Institute’s list of Top 10 technology hazards. He hopes that by the increased attention paid to this issue, it can be knocked off the list.
Source: Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI)