By Amanda Brown, RN, BSN, MSM, CIC
The economic impact on hospitals continues to play out across the country. The latest area of focus seems to be the resources provided to manage infection control programs. Even as the H1N1 pandemic looms, half of the IC professionals responding to a recent survey reported reductions in overall budgets for infection prevention.
Nearly half of the respondents to the 2009 Association of Professionals in Infection Control & Epidemiology (APIC) Economic Survey reported that State laws requiring public reporting of healthcare associated infections (HAIs) make it harder to focus on preventing infections.
This is a public health threat with acute care implications.
The APIC Economic survey gathered responses from nearly 2000 members to summarize the implications of economic cuts on infection prevention and response. Lagging technology and cuts in educational budgets were cited as common denominators across the country.
The most immediate troubling piece is that as surveillance and prompt action are needed to stem the spread of the H1N1 virus, resources for prompt detection and prevention of spread of disease are being cut. The combination of limited data mining systems to detect illness and less-than-adequate infection surveillance programs contribute to a poorly prepared hospital, leaving the surrounding community less protected.
Balancing cost savings and community protection
While organizations may need to tighten budgets to survive the economic crisis, they need to do so in a way that protects the safety of patients and the community.
Building capabilities aimed at using data effectively instead of creating data is key to a more efficient infection control program. Surveillance should stop being about monitoring cases, cultures and reports, and focus more on practical use of the information derived from the data.
Monitoring isolation practices during an outbreak and coaching staff on effective measures will impact patients more immediately than hours in the classroom speaking about potential modes of transmission. The defeat of a pandemic will not lie in the data derived from its victims, rather, from applying lessons learned from the past, tempered with current information about the local spread.