Most healthy individuals don’t put much stock in the severity of infections. If we have an infection, we can get an antibiotic from a doctor or clinic and go on our way. But infections in healthcare facilities can be much more serious in later stages in life when the immune system may not be as robust as it was when we were younger. Currently, it is estimated that 1 – 3 million serious infections occur every year in nursing homes, and that number is expected to rise as nursing home population rises. It is also estimated that up to 380,000 people die from infections in nursing homes every year.
Earlier this year, CMS proposed a rule that called for a sweeping upgrade of infection control in nursing homes. This rule, which was finalized the week of October 3, 2016, includes a new role for nursing home staff: the Infection Preventionist (IP) who is responsible for the facility’s infection prevention and control program. This program should focus on preventing, identifying, reporting, investigating and controlling infections for all residents and the individuals who come in contact with them, be they staff, volunteers, or visitors.
Infection prevention has been a top priority for hospitals for quite some time; why has it taken so long to propose this rule for post-acute care?
CMS last made a comprehensive update to its conditions of nursing home participation for Medicare/Medicaid in 1991. Infection prevention and control was already a condition, but now it is an updated rule that requires the IP and an antibiotic stewardship program. Many of these updates also help fulfill the additional protections required by the Affordable Care Act.
But it’s not just about adding another FTE to your roster. There are plenty of benefits to adding a designated IP.
Three Things Your New IP Can Do for Your Facility
1. Stronger partnerships with hospitals
Yes, the original intent of the rule is to reduce infections in the nursing home, because there is no reason to have unnecessary infections. Implementing this rule should help reduce unnecessary infections. Reduced infections can reduce readmissions, and therefore make you a stronger referral partner for hospitals.
2. Centralized implementation of infection prevention programs
Infection prevention is not a new initiative in nursing homes. However, the dedicated IP role adds some weight to infection prevention in nursing homes, allowing more of a systems approach instead of a piecemeal tactic.
Along with the infection prevention and control program will come the necessary policies and procedures. You don’t have to start from scratch. Programs exist to help you identify gaps, enabling you to improve that area before the surveyor arrives. This may involve additional training, data collection, tracking, and/or analysis. Your IP will also help identify the best medical devices to help reduce certain infections, from reducing CAUTIs to improving skincare to help protect against injury and infection.
3. Improved infection prevention supply chain relations
It’s not just a matter of setting up a plan and hitting the “start” button: The IP is tasked with being strategic in achieving ongoing improved infection prevention results. This means everything from plans to procuring the appropriate supplies and products to support infection prevention practice. Depending on your long-term care facility’s purchasing structure, the IP may be more empowered in buying decisions. With a finger on the pulse of the facility’s infection prevention plans and outcomes, IPs will be able to analyze and use outcomes data to inform more than just a better price. Outcomes can help determine better purchasing of infection prevention products by looking more closely at patient care practices that have led to the best possible outcomes.
Some of the benefits of an IP will be immediately apparent; others may take time to reveal themselves. Nonetheless, this new position holds great potential to positively impact your facility’s budget and infection prevention planning and implementation, but above all, incredible potential to better the lives of your residents.
Have you added an IP to your staff roster yet? What are some of the benefits you’ve seen already from this new position?