How to digitize your IPC strategy

For many healthcare professionals, face masks, shields and soap have been the hallmark of infection prevention and control (IPC) images throughout the entire COVID-19 pandemic. But for an award-winning hospital in Saudi Arabia, numbers, dashboards and data cards have become a more appropriate emblem.

Khaled Alnafee and colleagues at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center have recently installed a program that digitizes every IPC-related task in the hospital. From microbiology results to pharmaceutical store list items and HAI case numbers, every piece of data a practitioner may need to execute an IPC strategy is visible on a single portal, at the click of a button.

If the national benchmarking criteria for HAIs change, an algorithm will update it automatically. If an IPC report is required for a board meeting, the program will generate it automatically. And as a physician oversees, the program will create a spreadsheet with contamination rates, MDROs, and the number of blood cultures from a central or reference line.

Filling the gaps

While checking the new software for effectiveness, Alnafee – which has since won a worldwide award for its efforts – was surprised to find a string of errors, omissions and incorrect information. Not in his digital program, but in the paper system that preceded it.

“We continued to use the paper-based system alongside our software for a whole year, in a bid to detect and correct any problems with the new program. This included continuously checking the output with the handwritten notes that the staff produced, ”Alnafee said.

“We found that some of the notes compiled by practitioners were incomplete or unclear, meaning that we could not establish a complete dataset for a particular patient or department.

“The digital program has helped fill these gaps and give us a much clearer picture of where we are in terms of our IPC efforts.”

Raising standards

As a result of digitization, almost all key performance indicators (KPIs) in relation to IPC are well above benchmark. These KPIs are displayed in color-coded format on the application dashboard.

The dashboard gives us a visual snapshot of everything – when the last hygiene audit was done, the total number of surgical side infections, etc. For example, a rate of 1.6 is the benchmark for a specific surgical procedure and we are almost double what is required by this standard, “explained Alnafee.

“If we were sitting below the benchmark, the number would be red coded in color. This allows us to quickly see where our IPC vulnerabilities are for each neighborhood or unit.

Patient priorities are also easy to spot, with the program providing a visual snapshot of all IPC-related metrics.

“The software automatically links a patient’s laboratory results as soon as they are available. It allows the IPC practitioner to tell at a glance whether the patient has serologies or an endotracheal tube, and to see, for example, the history of their white blood cell count. Everything you can think of from A to Z is documented and accounted for on this system.

Pandemic buffers

In addition to avoiding ambiguity in patient care cycles, the system prescribes clear information on whether staff pose an IPC risk. Through a built-in survey, the system categorizes each staff member as high or low risk to be COVID-positive, and provides clear instructions relative to current government guidelines.

“If a colleague has tested positive for COVID, I can jump on the system and answer a few questions. The system will then let me know if I should be excluded from work for three days or go ahead and check for signs and symptoms,” he said. Alnafee.

Meanwhile, the program will determine the exact whereabouts and quantities of PPE supplies, and inform users when the supplies decrease.

Change management is essential

Despite the effectiveness of the system, Alnafee admits that there was considerable resistance from staff at the outbreak.

“People had become comfortable using the handwritten notes and some were not too happy to learn a new way of working. For this reason, training, regular communication and leadership have been so crucial to the success of this new system.”

To this end, Alnafee and colleagues have launched a series of campaigns highlighting the value of the new software features.

“We asked to be invited to each committee and take 15 minutes to present the dashboard. We have made a video and uploaded it to the hospital portal so staff can access it at any time. We also make continuous use of the newsletter to remind people and see specific features of the software.

“Ultimately, this tool will help them do their job better, prevent mistakes that lead to injury or litigation, and make a more meaningful contribution to patient care.

“In short, software like this is worth the effort to overcome all the problems with teeth,” he concluded.

Image Credit: ©

How to digitize your IPC strategy

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