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patent safety in healthcare

8 Ways to Improve Hospital Patient Safety

patent safety in healthcare

Protect patient safety in healthcare by following these 8 simple steps.

The following gust post on patient safety in healthcare was submitted by Gracy Liura.

There are very few experiences in life that cause more anxiety than having to be admitted into the hospital.

Take Legal Measures Ahead of Time

Coming up with a plan of constraints, requests, and procedures ahead of time can challenging and might even seem impossible. Knowing what to prepare for and who is going to be in charge, should you become incapacitated, appears to be an overwhelming task with so many emotions that can impede logic. At the same time, almost all aspects of life require a certain amount of planning, especially in relation to medical care and hospitalization. At this point, you (and your spouse or chosen “next of kin”) should pay a visit to the local hospital and request copies of the paperwork that need filling out upon admittance. Every hospital in every region is going to differ, but some of these forms usually include the following:

The Wishes—place a number before the word “wishes,” and then, this document might sound familiar. This form covers a broad range of issues or topics related to a stay in the hospital, including which difficult decisions will need to be made and by who. You might pick up a copy at your local hospital or healthcare facility to take with you for legal consultation. In other words you (and your spouse, if applicable) can discuss and fill out the paperwork and talk with a lawyer who can offer valuable advice about upholding your requests. More than likely, the document might have to be notarized.

List of Visitors (including clergy or ministers)—usually, in the stack of forms, there is a section, if not one page, where you make a list of visitors who would be allowed in the room for just a short time and who you would wish to stay for a longer period beyond visiting hours, if allowed by the hospital. This also includes any pastors, clergy, and/or laypersons should you wish to have some spiritual support for yourself and your family.

“Next of Kin”—this list is similar to the one that is previously mentioned, but applies more to an extreme emergency situation when a family member needs to get to the hospital quickly and possibly notify anyone else. Again, if this list and the list of visitors is established ahead of time, then there might be less chaos for you and whoever is in charge of notifications, which means less chance for a family conflict to erupt that distracts the staff away from quality patient care (not to mention disturbs the other patients).

Power of Attorney and/or Guardianship—you will most definitely need to seek legal counsel when establishing who will have power of attorney or assume guardianship if you reach the point of losing all capacity to make important decisions. Normally, spouses would act on each other’s behalf, or one of the older (or most responsible) of the adult children would be designated for this role. For single, young adults, often a parent is asked to take on this job in the event of a severe medical episode. Either way, you should ideally talk with the person who you would like to fulfill those duties before speaking with an attorney and going through all the legal procedures to make sure that he or she is in agreement with you. After all, this is the person who will be in charge of some of the most difficult decisions concerning your care.

List of “tasks” for immediate and extended family members—this document, if you wished to create such a document, probably has no legal bearing, but it would help to not just ask for help from loved ones but to specify what exactly you need—for example, someone to ask questions, someone to take your belongings home, someone to look after children during your stay, etc. Having an informal family meeting for the sake of discussing the “what if” scenarios and how to address them can help dispel some of the fear that goes along with being hospitalized.

Ask a Relative or Friend to Stay

No, you are not being a “coward” if you ask your spouse, significant other, parent, or even your best friend to stay with you for a night or two after your procedure. After all, you are still “coming out of” anesthesia while taking pain medication and would definitely need the immediate help to get out of bed if necessary.

Invoke the Help of Family and Friends as Witnesses

When you are ill or injured, the brain is frantically processing all sorts of stimuli—from the physical symptoms to the emotional impact. Thus, you might consider asking family and friends to “rotate in shifts” to stay with you and observe the care that the staff is giving and to be able to take notes and pose questions when the doctor checks on you. Also, you will need to consider that possibly only one to two visitors at a time would be allowed.

Meet with the Hospital’s P.R. Rep

If you are having a procedure scheduled ahead of time, then visiting with a public relations representative could result in gaining some valuable information about the hospital’s policies on visitors, shift changes (remember you will be dealing with multiple care givers) and other pertinent topics as well as to ask some questions of your own.

Protect Personal Belongings

In the event that you have to go to the Emergency Room, the person who takes you there should collect your personal items, like wallet, keys, and cell phone right away. If you are going to the hospital for a pre-scheduled surgery, then ideally, you will have already made arrangements with the family member or friend who accompanies you when you register. This is extremely important because most hospitals post their policy that they are not responsible for stolen or missing items.

Try to Stay Observant

When you are on medication or just not feeling well at all, keeping watch over your surroundings can be difficult. Nonetheless, during the waking hours, some vigilance would be beneficial. This is not to encourage paranoia, which would impede your healing and recovery, but just simply being coherent and maintaining communication with nurses and doctors can make a difference in the safety factor.

Become Ambulatory as Quickly as Possible

Getting on your feet is not just a matter of safety, but also an important factor in the recovery process. (Again, you should abide by orders from your doctor.) With help from a nurse, physical therapy assistant, or whoever is staying with you, you can periodically stand up and perhaps even walk around for a few minutes at a time. This will not only prevent fluid from settling in your lungs, it will also help you to get a look at your surroundings, specifically exits as well as to familiarize yourself with care givers and security staff.

Maintain an Updated List of Medications and Dietary Restrictions

It is important to adopt the practice of keeping a list of your prescriptions and supplements, any restrictions and allergies in your wallet for a number of reasons. Granted, if you are going into the hospital for a surgery that has been in the planning for a while, then you would have already provided that information upon pre-registering, but in the event of an unexpected illness, then having that information handy can mean the difference between life and death. A copy of this information should also be given to your designated helper (or spouse) in the event that you are not able to advocate for yourself.

Gracy is a dedicated and qualified nutritionist with over six years of experience in the Indian food industry, currently blogging at hCGdropsratings.com. On this website, she gives honest and detailed reviews on the world’s best HCG diet drops based on Google trends and Amazon, Ebay ratings. Gracy has earned a MSc degree in Human Nutrition at Chinmaya degree College (BHEL) in Haridwar, Uttarakhand. You can contact her any time you’d want if you’ve got any questions regarding her guest posts.

patient safety in healthcare

4 Ways to Utilize Technology to Protect Your Patients

4 Ways to Utilize Technology to Protect Your Patients

Learn more about how to better protect patient safety through healthcare technology. (Photo courtesy of pixabay.com)

The following guest post on how to protect patient safety in healthcare was submitted by Kara Masterson.

Healthcare technology has continued its rapid change over the last few decades. This impacts every level of healthcare. Physicians and office staff must work to integrate the appropriate improvements into every day practice, while continuing to provide excellent patient care. Hospitals must increase the effectiveness and efficiency of staff and offices while treating patients with acute and chronic conditions. Evaluating and utilizing applicable technology in each setting assist in protecting patients in the organization.

In the Laboratory

Hospital laboratories are filled with opportunities for errors. For the most part, microscopes and slides have been replaced with sophisticated diagnostic machines that are able to conduct several individual tests from the same sample at the same time. Unfortunately, the danger of misidentification of specimens remains. Utilizing the most up to date equipment possible and having a reliable identification and reporting system go a long way in having confidence in the accuracy of test results. A study published by the National Institute of Health (NIH) suggests using bar codes on containers to “link specimens to identifying electronic information.”

Patient Engagement in Care

A relatively new area of health care technology can be found in interactive patient engagement systems. Generally used with in patient care or for patients with chronic diseases, the systems connect health care staff with patients through a cloud based service. With a patient-centered approach to health care, these systems are designed to keep patients and their families engaged and participating in their care leading to a positive outcome for the patient. The systems provide information, education and entertainment options for in patients. The systems can be monitored by nurses and staff and are designed to promote communication and interaction between the patient, family and hospital doctors and nurses.

Time-Sensitive Collaboration

The NIH reports that one of the greatest barriers to effective health care is effective communication between health care professionals. In order to improve this and get the best care possible for patients, doctors and software companies are teaming up to develop communication tools that allow such varied business operations as specialist collaboration, remote access and staff training. The cloud-based service uses the lessons learned from social media to improve health care for patients. Through video conferencing, patients can be evaluated and diagnosed by a remote specialist. A hospital system with multiple offices can bring staff together to learn more about the most recent health regulations. The software involved can be utilized on a variety of device types with nearly unlimited access points.

Remote Tracking Tools

More and more, doctors are utilizing remote tracking tools to assist in patient care. Caring for patients with multiple, chronic conditions continue to be one of the greatest concerns in health care. With remote tracking, patients with diabetes and kidney disease can be closely monitored in the home. Elderly patients also benefit from this technology through mobility monitoring and check in services. Other benefits of these tracking tools can be found in diagnostics where laboratories can “observe” patient statistics over a period of time to better understand reported symptoms. Patients are able to be at home, improving quality of life and reducing health care costs.

Technology that has a direct impact on diagnosis and treatment are constantly improving. The offices and companies that understand and embrace the innovations that work for their situations will improve patient care by being more accurate and efficient. Each tool comes with a price tag, so it will be incumbent on organization administrators to determine which will work best for the clientele the organization serves.

Kara Masterson is a freelance writer from Utah. She graduated from the University of Utah and enjoys writing and spending time with her dog, Max.

healthcare worker safety is important

6 Most Common Injuries To Healthcare Workers

6 Most Common Injuries To Healthcare Workers

Patient safety is a hot topic in healthcare, but what about healthcare worker safety?

Patient safety is a main theme of our blog, but what about healthcare worker safety? Enjoy this guest post from Patient Handling addressing common safety risks to healthcare workers.

Healthcare workers rank at the top of the list of professionals with the most challenging and risky jobs. Despite the fact that research studies and statistics have proved that hospitals are one of the most unsafe and dangerous places to work, healthcare professionals continue to serve humanity regardless of the wide range of threats to their health.

According to International Labour Organization’s database of 1994, almost 51% of nurses and midwives in Australia are at the risk of developing various diseases dur to exposure to contaminated sharps. While the situation has definitely improved since then, the rate is still almost double to that of the whole private industry, including the manufacturing and construction industries. These facts are startling.

Who Is Considered A Healthcare Worker?

Everyone who works within the healthcare industry; in a hospital, clinic, nursing facility, or any other health centre, for protecting and improving the health of the masses in any way, qualifies as a healthcare worker. Doctors, nurses, and paramedics all come under this category.

Most Common Injuries to Healthcare Workers
Healthcare professionals work in a variety of settings and in the most difficult and challenging situations that expose them to unique dangers and risks almost all the time. Since the healthcare industry is one of the largest and fastest growing industries in Australia (more than 610,148 people were working as registered health practitioners, at one position or the other, in 2014), large numbers of people are continuously at risk.

The following types of injuries are most prevalent among healthcare workers:

Musculoskeletal Injuries

The kind of work healthcare professionals are involved in is not only mentally challenging, but is also physically demanding. According to research studies, healthcare workers face 7 times higher risks for developing Musculoskeletal Injuries (MSDs) than workers working in other industries. Among all healthcare professionals, paramedics and nurses face the highest risk because they are involved in handling patients during rescues and transfers. Sprains and strains in different parts of the body are common issues healthcare workers suffer from as well.

Fractures

Since healthcare professionals are almost always on the move, they are more prone to slips and falls which could cause fractures. Also, fractures could occur due to attacks by violent patients.

Back Injuries

The nature of work healthcare professionals do everyday involves a lot bending, twisting, quick movements, and heavy lifting, which can cause back injuries, such as back pain and slip discs.
Rescuing and transferring patients from one place to another, or from one position to another, requires non-neutral postures, rotations, and flexions that put a lot of stress on back muscles and spinal cord.

Cuts and Incisions

People working in the healthcare industry work with sharp instruments, such as needles and surgical instruments, on a regular basis. Even the slightest mishandling or distraction could lead to cuts and incisions.

Burns

Paramedics are usually at the risk of burns because they are responsible for rescuing patients in emergency situations, which also includes dealing with fire.

Infections and Blood Borne Diseases

Airborne micro-organisms and exposure to bodily waste and mucous is common in healthcare facilities. Also, healthcare workers can catch various blood borne infections and diseases if they have cuts and wounds. This puts them at the risk of developing as serious a disease as Hepatitis or HIV.

Sources:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK2661/
http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20150307/MAGAZINE/303079965

This article is provided by the creative team behind Patient Handling.

patient safety in healthcare reduces medical errors

A Guide to Digital, Physical, and Legal Patient Safety

A Guide to Digital, Physical, and Legal Patient Safety

Learn more about to protect patients’ physical wellbeing and digital and legal patient information and records.

The following guest post on patient safety in healthcare was submitted by Dixie Somers.

Today’s health care consumer is protected by digital, physical, and legal patient safety rules and regulations. Hospitalists, administrators, physicians, nurses, and others in a hospital setting must be aware of the required physical safeguards, rules, and regulations in place to protect patients’ physical wellbeing and digital and legal patient information and records at all times.

Physical safeguards also include the physical steps, procedures, and policies required to secure the Covered Entity (CE) or the CE’s Business Associates’ (BAs) electronic data and HIT systems, equipment, and building structures in use. These safeguards should address protection against physical and environmental threats as well as possible unauthorized intrusions in the health care environment.

Physical Safeguards

The hospital is a complex physical environment. It’s important for all hospital staff to implement and practice good health habits on a personal and team level.

The hospital has a myriad of regulatory compliance issues to consider along with patient safety, including HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996), EMTALA (Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act), and Medicare/Medicaid payments regulations in addition to its own corporate governance policies.

Of course, it’s the legal and ethical duty of the hospital to protect the patient’s physical body from material harm when he or she is in the hospital. Safety guards and procedures should be strictly followed at all times.

Hospital Environmental Health

Dangers are always present in the hospital, including hazardous chemicals, infectious materials, chemotherapeutic agents, and radioactive matter, among others. Occupational safety and health administrators must work to ensure patient protection from exposure to these elements. A fire or resulting smoke from a hospital fire could be dangerous for the hospital’s most vulnerable patients. Life Safety Codes are in place for that reason. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and local/municipal governments are required to enforce the laws and/or regulations concerning fire safety and hazardous materials in the hospital.

The hospital should review its fire and safety plan, fire drills/alarm notifications, fire safety equipment/maintenance and protective building features, hazardous materials/exposure control plan, waste containment, and personal protective equipment as part of the annual risk assessment.

Hospital Security

All people in the hospital—patients, staff, and members of the public—must be protected from harm in the hospital. Hospital security includes multiple factors. Day-to-day concerns referenced above or major accidents could threaten the hospital environment.

Since many people travel to and from the hospital each day, it’s important to protect individuals from potential altercations and robberies (including robbery of physical goods or stolen identification). Potential events could cause temporary overcrowding in the hospital.

It’s essential for the hospital to consider these and other potential scenarios that affect safety and security. Local, state, and federal laws address many situations but it’s also essential for the hospital to consider coordination with local emergency, fire, and police personnel.

As part of the yearly risk assessment, the hospital should review policies relating to security technology/security personnel, response to disruptive behaviors, monitor of materials in/out of the hospital building, and security of hazardous drugs/material/waste. There should also be an accurate WebID medical license verification system available to make sure that every doctor’s license is accurate.

Digital Privacy and Security in the Hospital

The hospital collects and uses patient information to treat its patients. It also collects personal financial information as part of its billing practices. Digital privacy is the patient’s right. Federal law requires the hospital to establish proper systems and procedures to protect the patient’s private information from prying eyes.

Workstations, devices, computers, and networks in use at the hospital must be secure. Each hospital must have proper security procedures and policies in place. Media controls, disposal of sensitive information, and access of information must be considered as part of the hospital’s compliance.

Patients have the right to sue the hospital and/or individual practitioners when private information is improperly accessed or breached.

Legal Malpractice Risks

Security of electronic health records (EHR) in the hospital and medical practice can advance both patient safety and the practice of medicine. However, it’s important for the hospital to know that, as new technology is adopted, potential liability risks are present.

Hospital staff can access patient information through EHR or via health information exchanges. Patients’ hospital charts, lab results, medication histories, radiology images and reports are accessed, exchanged, and reviewed. Patient injury can result from the hospital’s inability to make patient information available to providers treating him or her. If patient injury occurs from this type of information access error, the patient (or his/her family) may be able to file a legal malpractice claim against the hospital or individual providers.

Dixie Somers is a freelance writer and blogger from Phoenix, Arizona, who loves most to write for health, technology, and business niches. Dixie is the proud mother of three beautiful girls and wife to a wonderful husband.

Use-patient-photos-to-increase-patient-safety-in-healthcare

Why Patient Photos Should Be Linked to Medical Records

Use-patient-photos-to-increase-patient-safety-in-healthcare

Why aren’t more healthcare providers capturing patient photos during registration?

The following post on why patient photos should be added to medical records to improve patient safety was submitted by Michael Trader, President and Co-Founder of RightPatient®

The Push to Increase Patient ID Accuracy and Safety

Achieving accurate patient identification in healthcare is an important catalyst to ensure safe, cost-effective care delivery. Although we believe that accurate patient ID should have received more attention and scrutiny parallel to the rapid digitization of the healthcare industry, the issue has finally been thrust into the spotlight by powerful organizations such as AHIMA, the ONC, and CHIME as something that must be solved in order for other mandates (e.g. interoperability, health information exchange, population health, etc.) to materialize. 

Many healthcare organizations have proactively addressed the lingering issue of accurate patient identification by implementing new technologies that supplement existing methods of obtaining demographic information, insurance cards, and proof of ID. The idea is to add biometrics as an added layer of identity protection, security, and identification accuracy by asking patients to provide a physiological token prior to accessing health data and/or medical services. Biometrics for patient ID has rapidly caught on as a proven method to prevent fraud and medical ID theft, improve data integrity, prevent duplicate medical records, and safeguard protected health information (PHI).

Patient Photos Should be Captured During Registration

Despite the rising demand for biometric patient identification to improve patient identification and increase safety, not all solutions are created equal. Healthcare organizations that invest in unilateral biometric patient identification solutions quickly discover that they do not have the ability to easily and automatically capture the patient photo during registration and subsequent visits. This is unfortunate as the photo plays an important role in patient safety and in driving additional value throughout the ecosystem.

In addition, capturing the patient photo with a web camera during initial registration is not enough. This method often produces very poor quality photos, adds an extra step to the process, and the photos cannot be relied upon for other potential uses, such as facial recognition to verify patient identities during remote encounters. 

One important differentiator that should be considered when researching a biometric ID solution is whether or not it offers the ability to capture a high-quality patient photo and recognize the patient in a single step. Why?

  • Patient photos are proven to reduce medical errors.
  • Respected, influential healthcare organizations recommend including patient photos with their medical record.
  • Patient photos increase patient safety.
  • Photos can be used as a second credential for multi-factor patient authentication.
  • The photo serves as a visual reminder to the provider, thereby enhancing caregiver communication with the patient.
  • High-quality patient photos allow healthcare providers to leverage facial recognition for accurate patient ID when patient’s access PHI or services in non-traditional settings such as mHealth apps, patient portals, and telemedicine. This enables a holistic approach to establishing accurate patient ID because it addresses all points along the care continuum instead of a narrow approach that only covers patient ID at the point of service in a brick and mortar setting.
  • In areas like the ED where time is critical, utilizing a web camera and adding an extra step in the workflow is impractical and inefficient.

Criteria that Defines an Effective Biometric Patient ID Solution

In addition to the points mentioned above and the standard questions that should be asked when researching the adoption of a biometric patient ID solution, we recommend that healthcare providers seriously consider the unique value of a platform like RightPatient® that seamlessly captures patient photos and identifies patients in a single step during registration, subsequent visits to a medical facility, and other touchpoints along the care continuum. This establishes a concrete, two-factor audit trail of patient visit activity and identity assurance.

Verify that the biometric patient ID solution offers the following patient photo capture features:

  • Convenience – Is the patient photo capture process easy and convenient for patients and staff? Photo capture should happen simultaneously with capturing their biometric credentials and should be fast. Otherwise, you run into delays and registration roadblocks in areas like the emergency room where time is of the essence.
  • Seamless integration and functionality – Patient identification and photo capture should be a seamless part of EHR workflow and not require staff to sign in and out of applications or constantly toggle between applications. 
  • Affordability – Biometric patient ID platforms that offer simultaneous photo capture should be flexible and affordable and offer a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model option.

Conclusion

Capturing patient photos to increase safety and reduce medical costs is not a new concept in healthcare, yet it has failed to become mainstream compared to other industries. In fact, according to a recent report from the ECRI, despite the proven research that photos increase safety and engagement, only 20% of existing providers currently use patient photos. 20%! Think about that in the context of other industries that have used customer photos as part of their routine identification security protocols for years: membership management (e.g. gyms, fitness clubs), banking and finance, retail, education, government — the list is long.

If other industries have relied on the use of photos to augment identification accuracy, why is healthcare so far behind the curve? It seems as if healthcare market conditions and current and future initiatives to improve delivery, achieve better outcomes, perfect individual and population health, and reduce the cost of care are setting the stage for technology that can quickly and seamlessly capture patient photos as part of the identification process. The question is, are you investing in the right solution to harness this power?

Why Patient Photos Should Be Linked to Medical RecordsMichael Trader is President and Co-Founder of RightPatient®. Michael is responsible for overseeing business development and marketing activities, government outreach, and for providing senior leadership on business and policy issues.

 

using biometrics for patient ID in healthcare

4 Ways Tech Has Changed How Healthcare Providers Handle Patient ID Protocols

4 Ways Tech Has Changed How Healthcare Providers Handle Patient ID Protocols

Learn more about patient ID technologies and their impact on patient safety in healthcare.

The following post on patient ID in healthcare was submitted by Anica Oaks.

Methods of patient identification are critical to matching patients with their intended treatment in busy healthcare facilities. The failure to accomplish this has led to some serious consequences for patients and providers alike, in the form of unnecessary surgeries and wrong patient amputations resulting in a marked rise of lawsuits and malpractice insurance costs. Here are some technical solutions that healthcare professionals are looking at to help solve this problem.

1. Barcodes
Barcodes offer a convenient and cost-effective approach to establishing patient identity. New patients are entered into the system and issued a bar-coded ID bracelet which can be read by scanners at various locations during treatment, and automatically checked against patient databases. The same barcode can be printed on other documentation to be sure there is a match between the ID bracelet and any medications, test results, or scheduled treatments.

2. RFID Chips
Radio Frequency ID (RFID) chips emitting a unique signal are being touted as a better alternative to barcodes. These can be embedded in wristbands, hospital beds, or patient ID badges. Sensors reading this signal can generate the matching patient records on electronic devices. One advantage over barcodes is that chips can be read from a greater distance; sensors placed throughout the facility can also monitor patient movements for safety and security. RFID chips are also harder to duplicate. For this reason they are advocated by the FDA.

3. Staff Training
Identifying patients and administering ID protocols both upon admission and before receiving treatment typically falls to the nursing staff. Today’s nurses must be technically as well as medically trained to be effective in using the various patient ID technologies. A modern ADN to MSN online program (Associate Degree in Nursing to Master of Science in Nursing) better prepares nurses to understand and apply the technologies in use.

4. Biometrics
Using biometric devices is a fairly new but effective means of positive patient identification. Patient ID in healthcare now offers biometric devices that read iris patterns or even facial structure and are then matched against existing patient data to easily confirm identities. Barcodes or RFIDs leave room for error. A biometric characteristic, however, has only one possible match. Though these systems are more expensive to implement, their reliability and ease of use may be a wise investment.

Healthcare facilities today are faced with the need for stricter standards of patient identification. This is not just to safeguard patient health and professional integrity, but to guard against fraudulent use of ID to obtain drugs or free medical treatment. Today’s technology seems to finally be up to the challenge.

Anica is a professional content and copywriter who graduated from the University of San Francisco. She loves dogs, the ocean, and anything outdoor-related. She was raised in a big family, so she’s used to putting things to a vote. Also, cartwheels are her specialty. You can connect with Anica here.

weak hospital infection control policies endanger patient safety in healthcare

Infection Control – 5 Things Your Doctor Didn’t Tell You About C. DIFF

Infection Control - 5 Things Your Doctor Didn't Tell You About C. DIFF

The danger of weak hospital infection control policies is a direct threat to patient safety in healthcare. (Photo courtesy of Pixabay)

The following guest post on infection control and patient safety in healthcare was submitted by Evan Kaden.

Every year, patients are admitted to the hospital for various reasons. Some for surgery, others for acute or chronic illnesses, but all have the same expectation: to get well. Most are unaware of the risks that come with hospitalization and find themselves uneducated about them. C. Diff infection is no exception. While the doctors and nurses are required to inform you of an infection, that doesn’t mean that they have the time to explain the details of it. This article will explain what you and your family needs to know about C. Diff and how to prevent infection.

WHAT IS C. DIFF?

Clostridium Difficile, commonly known as C. Difficile or C. Diff, is the bacteria prominently known for causing infectious diarrhea. C. Difficile accounts for approximately less than 4% of the bacteria present in the intestinal tract. Everyone doesn’t have this bacterium in their system, but those who do typically have a healthy balance. In a healthy person, the bacteria do not pose a threat, but if there is an imbalance between the good and bad bacteria in one’s body, that can spell big trouble. A C. Diff infection is known as a “Nosocomial Infection”. This type of infection is one that is acquired in a hospital setting, during a prolonged stay. There are various types of C. Diff but the most common strain is the North American Pulsed Field type 1, better NAP1, which can lead to serious illness.

HOW DO PATIENTS GET C. DIFF?

C.Diff is often found in patients who are in long term care and are receiving antibiotic treatment for long periods of time. It also occurs in patients who receive a high dose of antibiotics. While antibiotics are beneficial for treating various conditions, they also destroy the good bacteria. Without the proper balance, the C. Diff bacteria that was once tamed, now has the opportunity to go rampant. Elderly patients and those with compromised immunity are particularly at risk. Patients can also contract C. Diff through physical contact. The bacterium is passed through spores found in feces. These spores can live on surfaces for months. Health facilities risk an outbreak if soiled linens and contaminated surfaces are not properly sterilized. Healthcare workers contribute to this risk when good hand hygiene is not practiced. Other factors that increase risk are: Gastro Intestinal surgery, IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), Chemotherapy drugs, Renal disease, a weak immune system and a previous C. Diff infection.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?

C. Diff symptoms include:

Watery Diarrhea (3-15 times per day)
Severe abdominal pain
Nausea
Appetite Loss
Fever
Bloody Stool
Weight loss

C. Diff creates toxins that cause the colon to become damaged and inflamed. Different strains cause various levels of illness. NAP1, as mentioned before is the most common strain of C. Difficile bacteria. C. Difficle is diagnosed when a patient develops diarrhea during hospitalization, while on current antibiotic treatment or within two months of a past treatment. The physician will request a stool sample to confirm the presence of C.Difficile and to determine if it is a serious infection. Most cases are mild but with the right course of action can be treated efficiently and effectively.

HOW IS IT TREATED?

The first course of action is to discontinue the current antibiotic treatment. This method usually allows for the healthy bacteria to be replenished and eradicate the C. Diff overgrowth within a few days. The physician may order treatment using Metronidazole or Vancomycin. These drugs stop the growth of C.Difficile. Another form of treatment is Probiotics, which has been proven to prevent recurring infections. If the infection leads to more serious issues, surgery may be required to remove damaged portions of the colon. This is level of treatment is rare.

Safety Precautions

Most hospitals have implemented hand hygiene education and policies for the medical staff as well as protective equipment such as gloves and gowns for those who deliver direct care to the infected patient. There are signs posted on the doors and walls of patients who have C. Diff, but it can be confusing for the common person to understand. This list of precautions can save you and your family from contracting or spreading the infection:

1. Wash hands thoroughly with soap for at least 20 seconds frequently
(Most recommend singing the Alphabet or Happy Birthday song as a timer)
2. Ask the staff if the chairs and surfaces have been cleaned with Chlorine Bleach prior to entering the room.
3. Put on any protective gear that is placed at the entry of the patient’s room. This includes gowns and/or masks.
4. Avoid contact with the patient’s bedding. If the patient needs to be moved or cleaned, seek assistance from a nurse. Fecal matter isn’t always visible to the eye. If contact is made with the bed linens or surface, wash your hands right after.
5. Avoid using the patient’s restroom while visiting. C. Diff spores can live on surfaces for long periods of time. To avoid infection, use the visitor designated restrooms.

With rising concerns regarding C. Diff infections, it is easy to understand why patients may consider an alternative option. One of those options is CDPAP, Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Program. This is a Medicaid program that allows the patient to receive home care and participate in his or her care plan. This alternative provides patients who have experience past C. Diff infections with a way to be treated in the environment where they feel the safest. With the proper knowledge and practices, we can work with the healthcare community to lessen the occurrence of C. Diff infections and ensure safe experiences for all patients.

Infection Control - 5 Things Your Doctor Didn't Tell You About C. DIFFEvan is a rare-breed of freelance writers who, believe it or not, doesn’t drink coffee! With a passion for sustainability and quality of life, he’s grateful for the opportunities he’s had to share his thoughts and stories with people through this crazy place called the internet.

poor infection controlposes serious risks

Poor Infection Control at Hospitals Poses Serious Risks to Patient Safety

Poor Infection Control at Hospitals Poses Serious Risks to Patient Safety

What is the most effective way to reduce hospital borne infections to increase patient safety in healthcare?

The following guest post on infection control in healthcare was submitted by Cade Parian.

Millions Impacted

There are an estimated 1.7 million cases of hospital-acquired infections every year. Almost 100,000 of those cases result in death.

Infections contracted in hospital settings are technically called healthcare-associated infections or HAI’s. They are caused by exposure to bacteria, fungi, or viruses while in a healthcare setting. Common healthcare procedures where infections are introduced are during surgery; catheter insertion; ventilation services; and any type of injection.

The Centers for Disease Control estimate that 1 in 20 hospitalized patients develop some type of infection.

Common Types of Infection

Some Healthcare-Acquired Infections go unnoticed with little harm. However, others are devastating. Patients endure physical pain and suffering as well as financial devastation due to the increased treatment costs. Some infections cause permanent damage and even death.

Catheter-Assisted Urinary Tract Infections – One of the more preventable infections. It often occurs when a catheter is left in a patient too long. Commonly affected areas are the urethra, bladder, ureters, and kidneys.

Pneumonia Caused by Ventilators – Infection that develops 48 hours or more after mechanical ventilation is given. The lower respiratory tract or lung parenchyma is invaded by microorganisms causing this infection.

Necrotizing Fascitis or Flesh Eating Bacteria – While rare, this serious bacterial infection spreads quickly and kills the body’s soft tissue.

Clostridium Difficile or C. diff – These bacteria live in your digestive tract. When these bacteria overgrow, it releases toxins that attack the lining of the intestines. 14,000 deaths (mostly the elderly) are caused each year.

Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae or CRE – These germs are highly resistant to antibiotics. More than 50% of the cases cause death. Most cases are caused by improper use of a duodenoscope. There are multiple types of CRE’s including:
• Klebsiella;
• Escherichia Coli or E. Coli;
• Klebsiella Pheumoniae Carbapenemase or KPC;
• New Delhi Metallo-beta-lactamase or NDM; and
• Verona Integron-Mediated Metallo-Lactamase or VIM.

Meningitis – The meninges are the protective lining around the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis often comes in outbreaks of multiple cases. Usually a contaminated instrument or drug causes the meningitis to spread.

Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus or MRSA – These bacteria live in your nose and on your skin. When it enters surgical sites, it becomes invasive. It can lead to heart valve infections, bone infections, organ abscesses, joint infections, and sepsis or blood poisoning. The danger is bigger for MRSA, because it is not commonly killed by standard antibiotics.

Sepsis – A deadly blood infection that triggers widespread inflammation of the body. It affects over 1 million American each year. Multiple organ failure and even death are caused by sepsis or septicemia.

Infections Cost Healthcare Billions

JAMA Internal Medicine issued a study in September 2013 estimating that healthcare-acquired infections cost the US healthcare system almost $10 billion per year. Many of those infections are preventable.

The average cost of treating common hospital infections are:
• Central Line Associated Bloodstream Infections – $45,000
• Ventilator-Associated Pneumonia – $40,144
• Surgical Site Infections – $20,785
• C. Diff. – $11,000

There are several things hospital staff can do in order to minimize risk of hospital-acquired infections such as:

• Washing hands often
• Keeping patient skin clean around wounds
• Wear gowns, masks and gloves

Hospital infections should be prevented in order to reduce morbidity, mortality, duration of hospital stay, and cost. Good hygiene and aseptic techniques have generally proved to be successful, but these practices are often not sustainable. Keeping constant watch and following the simple steps above could help minimize the risk of infections.

Cade Parian is a Metro Atlanta Personal Injury Lawyer representing injured people all over the nation. His folksy demeanor coupled with his ability to fit into any social and professional situation make him an attorney called upon by clients and other attorneys alike. A husband and father of two young children, he enjoys being the worst golfer on any golf course at any time when not preparing for trial or chasing children.

how to increase patient safety in healthcare

6 Tips for Helping Your Patients Feel Safe in Your Office

6 Tips for Helping Your Patients Feel Safe in Your Office

Learn more about practical tips you can adopt at the doctor’s office to increase patient safety.

The following guest post on patient safety in healthcare was submitted by Kara Masterson.

The relationship between patients and their medical care providers is fundamental to the effectiveness of treatment. A lot of people don’t feel comfortable in doctors’ offices, some more than others. Professionals such as dentists, counselors, and therapists can have a hard time dealing with scared patients. A doctor must have a way to forge a relationship and maintain it throughout, and that begins by making patients feel safe when they visit your office. Here are just a few tips to help make that possible:

Polite Staff

Some of the fears that individuals have are results of bad experiences that start at the reception desk of a doctor’s office. The first encounter that a patient gets shapes their perception of how the place operates, so if it’s a bad one, it will affect how they behave when they see you. Ensure that all the staff members know how to talk to patients and keep the comfortable.

Non-Threatening Surroundings

Fear of a doctor’s office may arise from the environment that patients have to be in when they come for their appointments. This problem is, especially a common one in dentists’ offices where patients take one look and fear sets in. Bric-a-brac spread around the room can distract patients from intimidating tools or equipment present in the settings. Kid-friendly furniture, TV, toys, and play areas can also make your office more accommodating to kids.

Initiate Conversations

Some patients find it hard to open up when undergoing therapy, making it necessary to try a few tactics to get them to talk. Therapists and counselors who have been through social work doctoral programs have the skills to communicate with patients in ways that calm their fears. You should establish a technique to talk to patients that include using the right language, words, and tone.

Sensitivity

Good bedside manners will go a long way in getting rid of fears in your patients. Things like disrobing for tests can be uncomfortable for some people, so be sensitive to their feelings and reassure them when they need it. People always like having someone there for them that is sensitive to how they are feeling.

Explain

Doctors sometimes forget that patients don’t have an inherent knowledge of what they are talking about and ramble on and on when giving information. Take the time to lay out details for a patient and take them through every step. Don’t confuse patients with jargon. By taking time to explain to your patients in their language what is happening you can really help make them feel more comfortable.

Engage

A patient may have concerns such as the cost of treatment and financing options but may be too afraid to ask you upfront. The NCBH recommends engaging patients by asking questions to open opportunities.

Overall, there are tons of different things you can do to help your patients feel comfortable in your office. You want to make sure that you space is comfortable and secure for everyone that comes in it. Not only can that help make your patients feel good, but it can help you feel good as well.

Kara Masterson is a freelance writer from Utah. She graduated from the University of Utah and enjoys writing and spending time with her dog, Max.

breast cancer prevention patient safety tips

3 Things You Didn’t Know About Breast Cancer Prevention

3 Things You Didn't Know About Breast Cancer Prevention

Learn more about possible ways to prevent breast cancer.

The following guest post on patient safety and breast cancer prevention was submitted by Meghan Belnap.

Each year, over 300,000 people are diagnosed with breast cancer. The precise cause of this type of cancer is unknown, but there are certain things that have been proven to increase a person’s chance of getting breast cancer. Most people know that avoiding radiation or carcinogenic chemicals can reduce breast cancer risks, but you may be surprised about these breast cancer prevention tips.

Oral Contraception May Be Harmful

According to the American Association for Cancer Research, taking certain types of hormonal birth control pills increases a woman’s breast cancer risk by 50 percent. This occurs because the pills alter hormone levels throughout the body and end up affecting breast tissue. The most dangerous oral contraceptives are ones that contain progestin and estrogen, so you may want to switch to non-hormonal birth control or pills that contain only progestin if you are worried about the possibility of developing breast cancer.

Alcohol Is Linked to Increased Breast Cancer Risks

Medical research has found that even drinking just one alcoholic beverage a day greatly boosts breast cancer rates. Women who have three alcoholic beverages a month are 15 percent more likely to get breast cancer than women who do not drink any alcohol. Alcohol increases estrogen levels, so it can cause estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancer to develop. It is also a toxic material that can harm individual cells, and damaged cells are more likely to mutate into cancerous cells.

Eating the Right Foods Does Matter

Preventing breast cancer isn’t just about eliminating unhealthy foods from your diet. Including breast cancer fighting foods to your menu can be extremely beneficial. Foods that contain antioxidants can prevent oxidative cellular damage, and some foods contain compounds that have been shown to kill precancerous cells. Cancer preventing foods to add to your diet include broccoli, garlic, walnuts, apples, flaxseed, pomegranates, and turmeric.

Conclusion

It may be impossible to completely prevent breast cancer, but these things can greatly reduce your risks. If you do develop breast cancer, the key to survival is detecting it and receiving treatment as soon as possible. New developments in radiology make it possible to target areas containing cancerous cells, so it is possible to treat breast cancer without harming the rest of your body. Find more information about these technological advancements online or talk to your doctor. It is important to be aware of any changes to breast tissue and contact your doctor as soon as possible if you notice something abnormal.

Meghan Belnap is a freelance writer who enjoys spending time with her family. She loves being in the outdoors and exploring new opportunities whenever they arise. Meghan finds happiness in researching new topics that help to expand her horizons. You can often find her buried in a good book or out looking for an adventure. You can connect with her on Facebook right here and Twitter right here.