How Biomedical Engineering Can Help In The Fight Against Hospital Acquired Infections

Hospital Acquired Infections (HAIs) continue to be a focus area for hospital departments such as infection control and sterile processing departments.  Infection control has been a key area of focus by many US hospitals due to the huge financial and reputational risk that exists when an outbreak of a superbug occurs in a hospital.  Biomedical engineers can also take a role in the fight against HAIs by helping to design and enforce the processes around medical equipment usage, cleaning and maintenance.

Some health systems, such as Satellite Health Care in San Jose, California, have even empowered biomed to take a critical role in their infection control programs.  This article by 24×7 Magazine describes how biomed can take a more active role in preventing HAIs:

“Joe Lewelling, vice president of emerging technologies and health IT at AAMI, reports that health technology management (HTM) professionals can—and should be—key stakeholders in these efforts. While HAIs are a “system issue,” the importance of HTM input and involvement has been somewhat overlooked.

“You have to look at all elements of the system, not only things like devices and associated issues, design problems, insufficient instructions for use, or inability to reprocess,” Lewelling says. “You have to look at the role of places and facilities and the way they are laid out, equipped, managed, and the actions of all people involved—not only clinicians and patients, but also others involved in interacting with devices or people in patient care areas.”

“HTM [professionals] need to be aware of patient risk and infection control practices and understand their part in ensuring practices are being followed during management of equipment,” he continues. “They need to understand their role in safety culture, be able to step in when they see problems, and ensure they’re addressed.”

Read the entire article here: The Battle of the Bugs

In order to fight HAIs and their effect on patient safety and hospital operations, biomed can take a more proactive role.  By keeping instructions for use for hospital equipment updated, and ensuring that staff are adhering to them, a lot of potential HAIs can be averted.  Additionally, biomed can help design and enforce the processes and systems their hospital uses to prevent HAIs. One system that biomedical engineers should consider is iRIScope, which is an endoscope tracking system that helps to improve processes for managing your facility’s endoscopes by increasing data transparency within your organization. If endoscope management is a potential area of risk for your facility, request this free Scope Accountability checklist to determine how prepared your hospital is for your next Joint Commission and state Department of Health visits.