How to mitigate infection risk in surgical care through process standardization

Patients are more likely to get hospital-acquired infection than lose their checked airline luggage, according to Maureen Spencer, RN, an infection prevention and clinical implementation consultant.

In a May 8 webinar hosted by Becker's ASC Review and sponsored by BD, Ms. Spencer discussed how healthcare organizations can rein in hospital-acquired infections and address rising rates of antimicrobial resistance by standardizing surgical protocols and processes.

Ms. Spencer detailed the ways healthcare organizations can manage risk in surgical care and outlined what a systematic approach to standardization looks like.

Three principles of quality improvement

Standardization relies on systemic quality improvement. Here are three principles of systemic quality improvement necessary to support process standardization, according to Ms. Spencer:

Put the patient first. The patient always comes first. When clinicians keep the patient at the center of their focus, the reason for process standardization becomes clear.

Use data to inform strategies. Clinical leaders should work closely with infection preventionists to collect data. Infection preventionists can put together HAI protocols to provide consistent and safe care in the inpatient and outpatient setting using standardized processes informed by infection and quality data. The most important data to collect includes processes, procedures and patient outcomes.

Prioritize teamwork. Clinicians should work as a team to implement quality improvement initiatives. Including infection preventionists in the decision-making process is an effective way to build a team-oriented culture focused on quality improvement and standardization.

Four ways to manage risk factors in surgical care

Provider organizations can leverage clinicians, consultants, and industry support to help create and standardize initiatives to improve quality and manage surgical risk factors through:

Observing processes. Clinicians and consultants should observe perioperative care processes. Watching hand washing, hair removal and preoperative skin preparation are three procedures clinicians and consultants observe. If compliance to guidelines and consistent practices are lacking in these three areas, the risk of surgical infections may increase.

Monitor compliance digitally. Compliance with clinical practices, practice standards and product directions can be recorded digitally, allowing clinicians and consultants to monitor compliance on mobile devices daily.

Compile data. Collecting, quantifying and reporting data on surgical care can help find areas where there is room for improvement. Once data is collected, standardization and education can help address any shortfalls in patient care.

Educate staff. Creating a hands-on approach to educating staff on best infection control practices is more effective than a didactic approach. This is often a good place that industry representatives can assist with in-services and product use training per instructions for use (IFU). Staff should also be familiar with evidence-based guidelines, and their skills should be reinforced and evaluated regularly.


Through effective teamwork, standardizing processes, educating clinicians and working with infection preventionists, healthcare organizations can reduce the risk of HAIs and improve patient care quality.

"HAIs are evolving, threatening patient safety and the delivery of quality care," Ms. Spencer said. "Safety and quality improvement can mitigate the risk of HAIs and can be achieved with standardization."

To listen to the full webinar, click here. To learn more about BD, click here.

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