Skip to main content

The new normal in infection prevention

We spoke with Marc-Oliver Wright, MT(ASCP), MS, CIC, FAPIC, Clinical Science Liaison, Central Region, PDI Healthcare, Inc, about keeping up with infection prevention amid the COVID-19 pandemic. He shares five things healthcare facilities should consider as they navigate the new state of healthcare.

1 | Be proactive and prepared

COVID-19 is unlike anything we’ve seen before, so we can’t rely on knowledge of past viruses to guide our actions. In order to be prepared, facilities need to be well-informed, adapt quickly and use the available science to make decisions even when they don’t have all the information. This will be especially important as new treatments and vaccines are developed. We will need to continue to respond and adapt to new information as it becomes available.

“Infection preventionists need to be proactive, responsive and pragmatic in their approach to providing the safest healthcare to patients in a wide variety of settings.”
– Marc-Oliver Wright

2 | Develop a PPE conservation strategy

Increased demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) has caused manufacturer backorders and delays. The good news is that new innovations are available to help you manage them. The CDC Burn Rate Calculator and NIOSH PPE Tracker Application can help predict the amount of PPE you will need for your patient volume. Enter the amount of supply you have in stock and the number of expected patients over a period of time, and these apps will assess how many days of supplies you have available.

Use this knowledge to create conservation and contingency plans and better prepare for patient care. If you find patient volume will exceed your PPE supply, you can identify alternatives, such as reprocessing of n95 respirators and conserving glove use. If you need to purchase PPE, our PPE and hand sanitizer catalog shows what is currently in stock and available for order.

3 | Stay informed on COVID-19 in your community

One of the best ways to be proactive is to be fully informed about what’s going on in the community you serve. Local, regional and state public health agencies are providing daily updates on COVID-19 in their communities. The Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Cases Map is updated daily to provide city and county level data so facilities can identify trends in their region, including numbers of confirmed cases, deaths and recoveries. With this information you can develop realistic prevention plans and risk management strategies.

4 | Take measures to keep staff and facilities safe

Communication with your staff is key to keeping them safe. Share guidance on how they can protect each other, such as self-monitoring with temperature checks before work or screening before shifts. Proactively develop and communicate guidelines about self-quarantine in case an employee is exposed to a known COVID-19 case.

This is also a good time to reevaluate your cleaning protocols, especially since studies suggest COVID-19 can last 2 – 3 days on stainless steel and plastic.1 Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Decide how often you’ll need to clean and disinfect based on COVID-19 activity in your community, the number of patients you see and how you’re managing patient flow
  • Evaluate clinical and non-clinical areas, such as waiting rooms and bathrooms
  • Don’t forget often-overlooked surfaces like personal electronic devices and keyboards
  • Reference List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-Co-V-2 to check that your cleaning products are effective against COVID-19
  • Understand the appropriate kill time to ensure correct cleaning duration for various surfaces

“Prior to COVID-19, you may have cleaned the bathrooms one time a day, but now you’ll need to reevaluate if that’s enough.”

5 | Manage and modify patient flow

Assess your facility’s engineering controls and mitigation strategies. What rooms have negative pressure where COVID-19 patients can be seen and evaluated? If you don’t have negative pressure rooms, decide if you should be seeing these patients at all.

If you are seeing patients with suspected COVID-19 or other viral respiratory illnesses, you’ll have to establish protocols to minimize risk in your facility. Use proper triage and visual alerts so patients know what actions to take to safely move through the facility. Reminder and instruction posters near sinks can be useful for encouraging proper handwashing.

When it comes to treating non-COVID patients, establish the appropriate level and type of medical care for your patient population. Telehealth may be a good option for some patients and can help limit traffic in your facility.