RTLS As A Tool For Infection Tracking And Prevention

One of the most serious and often discussed issues in healthcare settings today is nosocomial infection.

The CDC reports that while there have been gains in lowering central line-associated bloodstream infections in Maryland 47% lower than the national baseline, instances of MRSA bacteremia (22% higher) and difficile infections (20% higher) are elevated compared to the national baseline.  Numbers like these can affect hospital reimbursement rates, HCAHPS, patient outcomes and the bottom line.

It can be difficult to predict when or where a nosocomial infection will develop.  When it does occur, however, does your facility have the means to minimize the impact of an outbreak?  Can your hospital locate where the infection originated?  Can you identify staff members and medical equipment that were exposed to the contagion?  Most importantly, can your facility track the subsequent interactions of staff and equipment that might unknowingly spread the infection to others?

If the answer to these questions is no, please read on.

For healthcare organizations today, it is not enough to simply measure and report nosocomial infection rates.  Traditional analytic tools that compile and report on infection outbreaks may help measure how many patients have contracted nosocomial infections, but they do little to assist with preventing their spread.  The personal, operational and financial costs of these outbreaks can be significant to healthcare organizations.

Real time location systems (RTLS) can help reduce the harmful impact of nosocomial outbreaks by identifying staff members and medical equipment that have been exposed to the contagion.  Knowing who and what came into contact with the contagion allows the hospital to undertake preventative measures to reduce the spread of the infection.

Here’s how it works:

Staff members (doctors, nurses, PTs, RTs, aides, techs, EVS, etc.) and medical equipment are assigned unique tags.  Sensors mounted throughout the facility monitor where tags go, in real time, throughout the building(s).  The sensors are never off duty.  RTLS sensors diligently collect and record location information for each tagged staff member and piece of equipment so that reports can be generated to show movement and interactions.

This data is available through historical reporting tools that provide information on the movements of staff and equipment.  For example, once an instance of infection has been detected, reports can be generated to show which staff members interacted with the patient and what equipment was exposed so that proactive measures can be instituted to avoid further transmission of the infection.

Additionally, when integrated to hand washing/anti-bacterial dispensers, RTLS can provide information on staff usage and act to increase higher compliance rates.  Staff members that fail to meet compliance requirements can be identified for coaching to help reduce the number and severity of nosocomial events.

As far back as 2012, The Joint Commission identified RTLS as an effective means to track and assist with infection control and mitigation efforts.  In the article RTLS for infection Control (published online in ExecutiveInsight, 4/5/2012 by president emeritus of The Joint Commission, Dennis O’Leary, MD, Vol. 3*Issue 4*Page 39), it states “…unsterilized medical equipment, and other system failures are largely responsible for the 1.7 million HAI’s that annually kill 99,000 people a year, cost up to $45 billion a year in unnecessary medical expenses, and are the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, according to federal agencies.”

O’Leary goes on to say, “By deploying RTLS, hospitals can not only meet The Joint Commission’s requirement, but more importantly, they will be better positioned to operate in an environment in which the general public and payers are holding them accountable…”

RTLS is one of the best tools available to a modern healthcare organization to help minimize exposure to patients, staff and others when a nosocomial infection outbreak occurs.  By adopting RTLS and requiring facility-wide compliance, hospitals can have a reliable database to document staff and equipment movements so they can analyze and minimize the impact of nosocomial infections.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 17th, 2016 at 9:00 am. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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