6 Best Practices for Infection Prevention in Ambulatory Surgery Centers

According to JAMA Internal Medicine, healthcare-associated infections cost U.S. hospital systems approximately $9.8 billion annually. Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirms that about one in 31 hospital patients experiences at least one healthcare-associated infection. While significant strides have been made in recent years to decrease infections in ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs), more work can be done to promote infection prevention methods in the ASC setting.

6 Best Practices for Infection Prevention in ASCs

1. Uphold hand hygiene protocol.

Bacteria such as Enterococcus faecalis, Staphylococcus aureus, and Escherichia coli are fairly common in ASCs, and employing proper hand hygiene is the easiest way to ward off these infections. Often, there are many opportunities to practice hand hygiene in a single care episode. All staff should be properly trained on hand hygiene protocol in order to prevent the spread of potentially deadly germs to patients.

All staff should wash their hands in each of the following instances:

  • Before touching the patient

  • Before a procedure

  • After touching body fluid

  • After touching the patient

  • After touching the environment

  • When hands are visibly soiled

2. Practice patient cohorting.

Patient cohorting is essential to infection prevention. For example, patients with cystic fibrosis are susceptible to recurrent and chronic infections, and should be grouped only with other patients who have a similar presence or absence of specific pathogens. According to an article published by the National Library of Medicine - National Institutes of Health, proper screening and patient cohorting can “lead to a decrease in incidence and prevalence of chronic infections.”

3. Coordinate care.

From detailed surgery preparation to well-timed postoperative care, coordinating patient care is a multipronged process that requires all providers to effectively communicate with one another. Surgical staff and care providers must never assume surgical preparation protocols have been completed by another department or provider. Clear communication and coordination of care in the ASC is paramount to infection prevention.

4. Disinfect environmental surfaces.

It is critical that environmental surfaces be properly cleaned and disinfected to prevent infectious diseases from being transmitted to patients. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) also recommends staff follow a cross-contamination protocol to ensure patient and staff safety.

Areas at higher risk of contamination:

  • Waiting rooms

  • Doorknobs

  • Sinks

  • Toilets

Housekeeping staff should also be properly trained on how to use EPA-registered disinfectants according to manufacturer guidelines.

5. Strict process for cleaning surgical instruments.

The sophistication of surgical instruments has increased over the years, and as a result, ASCs must take a closer look at the efficiency of their sterile processing department and regularly audit cleaning practices. Not only does improper cleaning and disinfection of surgical instruments impact patient safety, it puts healthcare organizations at great financial risk.

The swift evolution of industry dynamics, governance, and technology require successful ASCs to stay current with guidelines and best practices for proper decontamination.

6. Adhere to a vaccination schedule.

Staff should follow a regular vaccination schedule. ASCs must make sure that vaccinations are being administered to their staff as recommended to minimize the transmission of diseases to co-workers and patients.

Mitigating the transmission of diseases in the ASC is not only the job of the infection preventionist. Every patient encounter is an infection prevention opportunity; it is the responsibility of everyone from housekeeping to surgical staff.

Establishing an Infection Prevention Program at Your ASC

Sullivan ASC consultants provide hospitals and health systems with comprehensive ASC assessments, recommendations, and implementation support that result in improved operational efficiency, increased income, and improved infection prevention measures.

To learn more about our ASC services and how our consultants can help improve your organization’s performance, contact us today.

Randy Heiser is the President of Sullivan Healthcare Consulting. Randy has been a hospital consultant since 1983 and has specialized in perioperative consulting since 1992. He has directed more than 500 surgery department operational improvement studies (and participated in an additional 350) in programs ranging from small community hospitals and freestanding surgery centers to some of the largest university hospitals in the U.S. He was instrumental in the design, development and implementation of the Surgery Benchmark Program that has been used by more than 280 hospitals. He has also participated in the design of several proprietary surgery scheduling information systems currently available in North America.

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