#3: How Clean is Your Stethoscope?
Most practitioners do not give the cleanliness of their stethoscopes much thought, but the results of a new study from the American Journal of Infection Control
(AJIC) are going to want to make them rethink their disinfection practices.
Hand hygiene remains the main focus of many infection control and prevention programs; however, according to the AJIC
study, “microbiology data have shown that stethoscope contamination after a single exam is comparable to that of the physician's dominant hand.” The types of bacteria the scope could be contaminated with can include: Staphylococcus aureus
, Pseudomonas aeruginosa
, Clostridium difficile
, and even vancomycin-resistant enterococci.
Previous studies have shown that hand sanitizer used to clean clinicians’ hands between encounters is also able to effectively clean stethoscopes. Still, “healthcare providers rarely perform stethoscope hygiene between patient encounters, despite its importance for infection prevention, [and the fact that] the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that re-usable medical equipment, such as stethoscopes, must undergo disinfection between patients,” according to a recent email press release on the study. In fact, a previous study the researchers highlight found that stethoscope hygiene was performed in, “an observed rate of 4.6% of trainees at 3 academic medical centers for nonisolation rooms over an 11-month period.”
Read more about the cleanliness of your stethoscope, here
#2: Stanford Hospital—A Canary in A Coal Mine
Sure, all the data is reported through the National Healthcare Safety Network and made publicly available, but few people even bother to research and read the data prior to seeking medical care. Those hospitals who do not meet the requirements may even be hit with CMS reimbursement penalties, but when this happens (and it happens a lot), it typically doesn’t receive much media attention. Of the handful of infection preventionists I’ve talked to about this report, not one was surprised. Sadly, it’s common practice that patients aren’t properly isolated or that signage isn’t up all the time. And, although some hospitals are utilizing newer and more effective technologies such as UV-disinfection equipment to help disinfect rooms, this practice still adds time to the clock between patient discharge and the next admission.
The healthcare industry is always in a battle against cutting costs, keeping patients safe, and maintaining high patient satisfaction; all while following federal regulations and requirements. Despite the alarmist nature that comes across in the media coverage on the Stanford case, we need to realize that this is only a glimpse through the window that is healthcare infection control and the struggle to follow best practices while working in an increasingly stressful environment. In this case, Stanford Health Care is the canary in the coal mine, alerting us that there’s a problem. They just happened to get the media scrutiny that comes with being pulled into a union debate involving the safety of employees.
Unfortunately, Stanford Health Care is not the only canary—in fact, it is only one in a whole flock who have been giving us warnings of infection control and patient safety failures for decades. The question is, are we finally ready to listen?
Learn more about the Stanford Hospital report, here