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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- National leaders from the fields of healthcare, academia, the medical industry, government and the nonprofit world recently convened at a futures summit in San Diego, to explore the evolution of infection prevention and control in an ever-changing world. The summit was hosted by the Association for Professionals in
Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC), a nonprofit healthcare association based in Washington, D.C.
Some basic themes that resonated from the two-day event were: (1) the
ever-increasing demand for the expertise held by infection control
professionals; (2) agreement among some of the best minds in government
and healthcare that infection control professionals should play a
greater role in emergency preparedness, whether it pertains to a future
influenza pandemic, emerging diseases, other natural disaster or a
bioterrorist event; (3) the idea that information technology will
revolutionize the role of the infection control professional; and (4)
the evolution toward an even greater emphasis on prevention.
The ongoing message from all speakers was that infection control
professionals need to demonstrate their value and provide vision to
policymakers, healthcare administrators and public health officials.
Futurist Jeff Bauer explained that every 30 to 40 years, there is a major
shift in how things work and are perceived in the healthcare system -
and that infection control is now facing its own transformation.
The day-to-day challenge of preventing healthcare-associated infections
in our facilities remains a major focus for infection control
professionals, said APIC president Jeanne Pfeiffer, RN, MPH, CIC. In
addition to this colossal responsibility, the practice of infection
prevention pervades virtually every aspect of emergency response - from
addressing naturally emerging public health threats such as a flu
pandemic, to facing a bioterrorist attack. Our role has never been more
Speaking about the likelihood of a future flu pandemic, noted public
health expert, Michael Osterholm, Phd, MPH, director of the Center for
Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said,
The coming flu pandemic is the crisis node of a lifetime. The question
isnt whether there will be another influenza pandemic; the question is
when. It will happen. Infection control professionals are absolutely
critical to our preparedness efforts. Without them, the public health
system would collapse.
Ken Segel, policy director and special assistant to the CEO, Pittsburgh
Regional Healthcare Initiative, stressed our need to have systems in
place to effectively manage a pandemic situation. Public health
historically has a desire not to alarm people but we need to alarm
people to get them to take action.
Infection control experts agree that public awareness of these potential
emerging threats is paramount to successful management and positive
outcomes. Simultaneously, however, these professionals are working on a
daily basis to prevent and control healthcare-associated infections in
their facilities - a challenge that Segel called tantamount to
addressing a constant outbreak.
Segel contends that while rigorous infection data collection yields
scientific credibility, it doesnt solve the underlying problems that
are leading to the increasing number of infections. We need to move
from rate analyses to root causes and the system-wide changes that will
make eradication possible, Segal explained. ALCOA, which has a long
standing commitment to workplace safety, is 27 times safer than a
hospital. What can hospitals learn from industry? It behooves us to
create safer environments for patients and workers. Its a fact that
safer companies are more profitable companies.
Robin Goldenberg, MD, of Georgetown University, provided some important
food for thought regarding how reimbursement could affect the role of
infection prevention and the delivery of healthcare. Imagine if
Medicare or private insurers said, Well pay you 150 percent of your current
DRG (diagnostic related group) rates, but were not paying an extra cent
for healthcare-associated infection and other adverse outcomes.
Discussions over the course of the Summit, Infection Control in a
Dynamic World: A New Vision for a New Reality will result in a
published report (to be issued in early 2005) intended to create the
foundation for APICs strategic approach for the next three to five
years. The specific recommendations that emerge from the Summit will
serve to articulate the preferred future of the infection control
profession and the role of infection prevention in our nations health
Industry partners who participated in the APIC futures summit include
Cardinal Health, 3M, Kimberly-Clark, Mediflex, Advanced Sterilization
Products Johnson & Johnson, Steris, Tyco, MedMined, BD, and B Braun.