EXPLORE - Winter 2013 - (Page 8)
The Increasing Role of
Environmental Services in
the Battle Against HAIs
By Bill Slezak
here's been some news of
late that might lead one
to believe we're making
advances in the battle
against infections associated with healthcare.1 As
the regular reader of EXPLORE knows, there
are indeed pockets of progress in the battle.
But, the truth is, preventable healthcare-associated infections (pHAIs) are still
a major challenge in this country's healthcare facilities. For example, there's finally
long-needed updated research available
that should be enough to jolt all of us: A
report2 published in the Journal of Medical
Economics estimates that HAIs arising in
U.S. acute care facilities cost our society as
much as $147 billion annually. 3 This new
data reveals a more accurate and up-todate perspective on the extent of the HAI
problem and supports the view of many
that HAIs are at epidemic levels.
Clearly, this makes a powerful case for
looking beyond the popular single initiatives to full-blown multimodal intervention
to prevent HAIs. An aggressive intervention
initiative is needed to address this problem as rapidly and completely as possible.
Further, there's never been a stronger and
more well-defined need for the role of
Environmental Services (EVS) as the First
Line of Defense in this initiative. And there
are successes that bear this out.
Wash Your Hands, Yes, But...
U.S. hospitals are going to great lengths
to make sure doctors, nurses, and staff are
washing their hands in an effort to reduce
8 www.ahe.org I EXPLORE I Winter 2013
the high rates of HAIs. If you're running a
hospital, there are compelling reasons for
these efforts. HAIs can be deadly, but if
that fact alone isn't enough of an incentive, there are countless new federal rules
where hospitals will lose reimbursement
dollars when patients acquire preventable
While it's true, there have been some
notable hand-hygiene programs of late
showing improved compliance rates,
there have been reports to the contrary
as well. 4
It's simply unrealistic to view
hand-hygiene programs as a singular solution to reducing the number of HAIs. All the
hand washing in the world won't do a bit of
good if clean hands immediately come in
contact with contaminated surfaces, such
as a cubicle curtain, a bed rail, a chart, or
any other hot spot.
As Darrel Hicks, BA, REH, CHESP, has
said, "As long as environmental surfaces
are inadequately processed, the best hand
hygiene program will fail."
Hicks advocates a process of specific,
prescribed steps that lead to a clean, safe
environment not only for the patient but
also for caregivers and family members.
Do Everything Else, Too
The popularity of hand hygiene can't
be denied. The same can't be said for multimodal intervention. It's a little more complicated-beginning with understanding
all of its parts.
The story5 goes, when asked how his
particular county in Sweden was achieving
pace-setting results in total health-system
performance, the chief executive of learning and innovation replied, "Here's the
secret: We do everything!" Realize this and
you'll understand the idea behind multimodal intervention to prevent HAIs.
Discussion of the multimodal approach
was ever-present at the Association for the
Healthcare Environment (AHE) EXCHANGE
2013 conference earlier this year. For example, Jennie McVey, RN, CIC, spoke of engaging leaders and building stronger alliances
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of EXPLORE - Winter 2013
A Message from Leadership
A Critical Part of Prevention
AHE News & Updates
EXPLORE - Winter 2013