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Reducing infections in young patients

March 20, 2018
From the March 2018 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

By Thom Wellington

My column is normally focused on innovation and techniques used in effectively reducing health care associated infections (HAIs) in hospital patient populations.

However, this month I would like to focus on innovation in pediatric care that may be natural for young physicians, but a paradigm shift for older pediatric docs. Innovation is quickly weaving its way into health care with younger patients and families welcoming the changes. Beyond the technological advances, infection prevention in pediatrics remains to be an important factor as innovation transforms the delivery of health care.

Most everyone is witnessing the increased focus on infection prevention. Billboards along highways stress the importance of handwashing. Disinfecting wipes are provided to wipe the handles on grocery carts and restaurants leave individually packaged hand wipes in place of breath mints in decorative bowls near hostess stands. Inside our hospitals the efforts to reduce infections go far deeper with teams of infection preventionists (IPs) checking patient data, making sure clean linen carts are properly draped, checking negative pressure rooms and even overseeing sink placement during construction planning.

The reason for change in focus over the last decade is twofold: health care associated infections are responsible for 205 deaths per day; and hospitals are no longer reimbursed by insurance providers or from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for continued care to patients experiencing an HAI. As most HAIs are preventable, companies have jumped at the opportunity to develop ways to reduce HAIs using innovation for delivery of health care to patients.

When evaluating new innovations, it is important to consider the differences between children and adults when it comes to preventing health care associated infections.

Factors that must be taken into consideration in pediatric care include a child’s underdeveloped immune system compared with the immune system of adult patients, and that some children are too young to receive vaccines. Vectors for transmission of infections between children are often different than adults and include shared toys and books, play areas, etc. Children are also accompanied by parents, siblings and additional visitors, who introduce more opportunities for transmission of HAIs. Pediatric infection prevention plans must include these additional people and the potential for transmitting infections in the hospital to young patients.

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