At the end of the day, it’s all about the patient: can we speed the time to effective treatment? Can we care for them locally or do we need to refer them out of the community? And how does an individual hospital choose the microbiology services they offer to assure their community of its commitment to a high standard of care?
When it comes to microbiology and the patient, there’s a lot to consider, including the range of personnel, services and facilities available in the hospital. All of these have an impact of whether patient care is delivered locally or sent to specialty centers with the knowledge, experience, skills and specific facilities to best manage the patient.
Here are the top four microbiology considerations for managing the patient stay, treatment and condition:
1 | Patient demographic considerations
- Which disease states are typical in the community?
- Are C. diff and MRSA increasing in the community?
- What does the community see often enough to need to treat confidently and effectively (diagnostic efficiency)?
- What about the incidence of STDs due in part to newer treatments for erectile dysfunction extending the reproductive time span for men?
- Is your community in the path of emerging pathogens?
2 | Medical staff skills and expectations
- Does the facility have sufficient expert staff to manage more challenging infections?
- If not, is the facility prepared to invest?
- Is recruitment a needed option?
- Would this investment be appropriate over time?
3 | Availability of nearby expertise at tertiary facilities
- What options are available currently and prospectively for nearby tertiary care facilities?
4 | Facility infrastructure, policies and procedures
- Does the facility have proper isolation facilities?
- How robust is the facility’s infection control protocols?
- Is investment available and warranted?
There are numerous ways to identify and understand these questions, including the facility’s own patient records for disease incidence, consultation with the state department of health, and access to experts in the field at hospitals patients are referred to and industry sources such as manufacturers and distributors as well as internal discussion.
There are many dynamics to consider in microbiology testing: what the facility has done in the past, what the medical staff and community expect, what the facility is prepared to offer or to invest to offer and the view of the future. Considering staffing and investment at a broader community level (Who in the community can help with planning and decision making? Can we attract more patients? Can we recruit qualified staff more broadly? What will we need a few years from now?) takes more time and energy but is more likely to uncover resources that would otherwise be missed and provide solutions that otherwise might not have been obvious.
While emerging pathogens, antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria and choices of technologies, staffing and other investments are challenges, microbiology is undergoing a revolution that will improve diagnostic and treatment time, options and quality across a far broader cross-section of patients than would have been possible as recently as ten years ago.
Ultimately, these considerations should be weighted at each healthcare facility to understand where to focus time and energy. Keep better outcomes at the top of mind and use the microbiology lab as a weight to positively affect patient satisfaction and outcomes.
Continue your learning. Check out these other articles on microbiology and its challenges.
What is Microbiology?
Get an overview of microbiology, including terminology, types of testing and testing methods.
Microbiology & Staffing Issues
Learn about common microbiology staffing challenges in the community hospital.
Microbiology & Turnaround Times
Learn how improving your microbiology testing turnaround times can impact your community hospital.
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