Rethinking Infection Prevention and Control in a Post-Pandemic World

A basic tenet of infection control prevention and control is constant vigilance. With each patient, healthcare provider or staff member, every interaction creates opportunities for potential exposure—a lesson that, unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically reinforced.

Anita Brandt, a consultant at HealthTechS3, says that although COVID-19 exposure is becoming less of a threat due to vaccine availability and more of a norm in the healthcare arena, the virus did cause many hospitals and healthcare facilities of all sizes to pause and rethink existing infection control practices and routines. 

“There are so many lessons learned from the past year and a half when it comes to infection prevention,” Brandt says. “Are we doing good enough? Do we have enough supplies? Do we have the right supplies? No one wanted to be the reason a patient, coworker, family member or loved one became infected.”

Public health crises aside, Brandt says that continuous improvement and audits to prevent hospital acquired infections (HAIs) must always be top of mind. That’s why, in part, she believes that focusing on the basic principles of infection prevention and control is a topic worth revisiting over and over again. 

“The fact of the matter is that, before the pandemic, the average healthcare worker washed their hands appropriately only 40% to 60% of the time,” Brandt says. “Now that number is likely higher, but it is still a startling statistic. In past mock surveys, when questioned about contact time, some respondents also thought that contact time and time the surface remains wet were the same; not only is that not necessarily true, but it also can be dangerous for our patients and others.”

Brandt is quick to say that most lapses in proper hand hygiene, the donning of PPE, or the cleaning and disinfection of surfaces and tools are not willful negligence, but simple human error.

Changing patterns of human behavior, however, require practice and oversight, which is why Brandt believes that hospitals must take a multidisciplinary approach in any infection prevention and control plan.

“It is the hospital’s responsibility to make sure a prevention plan is in place and that the right people are there to assist with and prioritize that plan,” Brandt says. “You need people who will understand the importance of monitoring those plans and programs, too.” 

Brandt says that no matter how great or lacking the hospital or healthcare organization, a deep dive into efficacy and efficiency is critical. 

“We all have to be responsible infection preventionists, not just those who have expertise in infection control,” she says. “That means that all of us need to be the spokesperson for our healthcare organization and an advocate for our patients to prevent infection. “

To learn more about preventing HAIs and common regulatory findings related to infection control, tune in to the webinar Infection Prevention and Control Basics: Are We Doing Enough? on Aug. 6 at noon CST. Led by Brandt, the webinar will also discuss the importance of antibiotic stewardship and the differences in cleaning and disinfecting multiple types of patient care equipment and environmental surfaces. Reserve your spot today.