Key Leaders Convene to Explore Vision for the Infection Control

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.


Source: APIC