Preventing harm and sustaining safety in an age of infectious disease

August 03, 2021

It may be some time before we know the full scope of the coronavirus's highly infectious pathways. We've learned much about COVID-19 transmission since the early days of the pandemic, but variants and their potential for harm continue to throw us curveballs. Coupled with hesitancy among many in the U.S. to take the vaccine, it's imperative that health care facilities remain vigilant with their infection control and prevention programs, refining practices and, in some cases, adopting new ones.

I'm returning to the example of a skilled nursing facility client introduced in my first blog to offer some recommendations from a December 2020 Commonwealth Medicine visit there. The onsite assessment focused on infection control and prevention in the event of a COVID-19 resurgence at the facility, with suggestions for best practices in quality that build on measures taken at the outbreak's height.

Taking action to prevent harm

The aim of a robust infection control and prevention program is to adopt a goal of eliminating all preventable harm and introduce a culture where patient and staff safety is paramount.

Accomplishing the first part of this objective calls for a highly detailed action plan. Some essential features of that plan, whether your organization is creating or finetuning one, include:  

  • Participation by leadership and clinical and nonclinical staff representatives, with guidance from subject matter experts (more on these roles below)
  • A written and easily updatable format, with important duties and critical dates
  • A section on procedures for ensuring ongoing compliance with the program

Introducing, and sustaining, a culture of safety

The second part of the infection control and prevention program objective, creating a safety culture, requires the right staffing model, and for certain sized organizations, this means subject matter experts in prevention, quality (a leadership role), and staff education.  

The addition of these dedicated experts creates the cornerstone of a program that not only aids leadership in the effective management of an infectious disease outbreak but also signals an organizational commitment to everyone's safety, providing employees with the knowledge and tools to continually place high-quality patient care at the center of their work.

The recommendations above can help prepare your health care organization for what the coronavirus, or other infectious disease, has in store. My next blog will explore how embedding a process improvement program within your organization not only reinforces quality efforts like these but also makes them even better and better… (you get the idea).

Commonwealth Medicine launched its Health Care Operations Solutions program to help health care organizations prepare for unexpected events and implement the necessary processes and practices to address them when they happen. Explore our services.

Contact me to learn how we can help you prepare for the future and create the structure and processes that support your organization's needs.