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Infection control corner: 'I did not see that coming’

September 08, 2016
From the September 2016 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

To mitigate the risk of HAIs and legal costs, everyone employed and contracted by the health care system needs to be trained and certified in how their work can cause an infection. Whether the contracted infection is minor or life-threatening, the patient is still suffering and it is the hospital’s responsibility to keep patients safe and healthy. HAIs are recorded against each facility and can be accessed by the public. Keeping these numbers low is directly connected to the health care organization’s bottom line.

HAI litigation is a trend that should be on every hospital’s radar, especially since the frequency of hospital professional liability claims is increasing. According to a new study released by Aon Corporation, in conjunction with the American Society for Healthcare Risk Management, HAI claims are on the rise and are expected to increase annually.

The Aon study also found that one out of every four claims and nearly a quarter of hospital professional liability costs are associated with HAIs. As much as patients don’t see infections coming, hospitals are not recognizing that juries are starting to notice the trend, too. A jury recently awarded $13.5 million after a 40-year-old woman died of flesh-eating bacteria that she contracted during chemotherapy treatment. She did not expect to contract the bacteria and the hospital did not expect to be blamed for the spread of the bacteria.

To have a legally defensible protocol, hospitals must follow best practices, provide training to all staff and document that all protocols are being followed. This requires constant vigilance at all levels within the hospital. Hospitals develop their standard of care policy and must follow it because most health care-related lawsuits are not about the quality of care, but rather if employees are following regulatory guidelines.

Health care providers need to operate like well-run corporations. Protocols are established and followed by everyone. Training is highly recommended throughout all areas of the health care system to prevent patients and the facility’s employees from saying, “I didn’t see that coming!”

About the author: Thom Wellington is the CEO and a stockholder in Infection Control University, a company that provides staff training programs and control processes for infectious microorganisms in hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities and other health care-related institutions.

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