Healthcare Industry Struggles to Comply With New Construction-Related Infection Control Regulations

OMAHA, Neb. -- The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO)'s EC.3.2.1 regulation, which deals with infection control during construction and renovation, is having a major impact on the healthcare industry, according to a recent study by AMI Environmental, an environmental consulting and remediation firm specializing in healthcare facilities. The study shows that achieving compliance with EC.3.2.1 is requiring a major effort, and the market is still working towards meeting all of the requirements of the regulation.

In response to the survey results, Mike Taylor, director of corporate development for AMI Environmental, says, "Construction-related infection control activities have become a major focus of the healthcare industry, since more information is now available on the connection between construction activity and the transmission of infectious agents. In turn, the industry's efforts have become more urgent and focused- with knowledge comes responsibility. It really can be a life-or-death issue in many circumstances."

Taylor adds, "Healthcare facility managers and designers are grappling with compliance because there are so many variables during construction that tie into infection control- for example, there are varying levels of patient susceptibility to infection, as well as specialized and highly-controlled patient care environments, all of which must be considered when assessing the risk posed by specific construction activities. Dust, vibration, moisture and other environmental disturbances all increase the risk of exposing immunocompromised patients to infectious agents and must be anticipated and controlled."

AMI surveyed a cross-section of healthcare facility managers and administrators, architects, and engineers across the country. Key results from the study include:

· JCAHO's E.C.3.2.1 regulation is requiring a noticeable amount of effort. The vast majority of survey respondents indicate JCAHO's E.C.3.2.1 regulation requires significant (58 percent) or moderate (40 percent) effort to reach compliance- only 2 percent say getting into compliance is simple.

· The healthcare industry is not fully prepared to meet E.C.3.2.1 requirements. Only a small percentage of respondents (6 percent) say the healthcare industry is fully prepared to meet E.C.3.2.1 requirements. More than three-quarters of respondents (78 percent) indicate the healthcare industry is partially prepared to meet E.C.3.2.1 requirements, while less than one-fifth of respondents (15 percent) say the healthcare market is not prepared to meet E.C.3.2.1 requirements.

·Finding experienced personnel is the biggest hurdle in complying with E.C.3.2.1. Aside from finding experienced personnel, other key challenges include a lack of funding, finding experienced consultants, working within a limited timeframe, achieving cooperation between departments, and obtaining contractor compliance.

·Healthcare facility owners are typically responsible for infection control. More than a third (34 percent) of respondents cite owners as the individuals who were responsible for infection control planning and execution on their last project. Contractors (12 percent), environmental specialists/industrial hygienists (6 percent), architects (6 percent), and engineers (5 percent) are also cited as responsible parties. When asked who should be taking the lead in infection control planning and execution, respondents say that fewer owners (32 percent) and contractors (6 percent) should be responsible, while more environmental specialists (15 percent), architects (9 percent), and engineers (7 percent) should be responsible.

·Placement of containment barriers is the most frequently used infection control measure. On average, respondents rank infection control measures that occur on their projects based on how frequently they occur in the following order (from most to least): placement of containment barriers, isolation of air handling and ventilation, patient relocation, and air and water testing.

·Most infection control procedures are performed by healthcare facility staff. The vast majority of respondents (79 percent) say infection control is handled by someone in-house with credentials. A smaller percentage of respondents (14 percent) say they have someone in-house who handles infection control, but they also outsource some of the work, while 6 percent of respondents say they entirely outsource infection control.

AMI Environmental specializes in a wide range of environmental consulting and remediation services for asbestos, lead, mold, infection control, and other facility-based environmental issues.

Source: AMI Environmental