Prioritizing Patient Safety

Erica Washington

Erica Washington is being honored as a Champion of Change for helping Americans live healthier lives, reduce disease and contribute to lowering health care costs by focusing communities on public health and prevention.

To some consumers, “shared responsibility” in the treatment process may connote only the actions of physicians with their patients; however,  “shared responsibility” in the realm of Healthcare Associated Infections (HAI) is much more. It’s the responsibility of all professionals in any healthcare setting  – whether doctors, nurses, or administrative leadership – to take an active role in ensuring that preventable conditions do not impede patient care. Patient safety has thus increased by having all persons in healthcare delivery take an active role in infection prevention.

As the HAI Coordinator for Louisiana, working in the Louisiana Office of Public Health, I have been able to synthesize Epidemiology with infection control in our state’s acute care, long-term acute care, and inpatient rehabilitation facilities.  These prevention measures include using CDC’s National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) as a surveillance tool to readily identify HAI as well as produce statistics for the purposes of prevention. With invaluable investments from the Affordable Care Act’s Prevention and Public Health Fund, Louisiana is able to celebrate low rates of infections such as central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSI) and catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTI) and we will continue to work toward a zero infection goal.   Funding from the Affordable Care Act’s Prevention and Public Health Fund is helping public health and health care leaders implement strategies to prevent healthcare-associated infections and improve the health and well-being of all Americans.

The success of the Louisiana HAI program is achieved by creating a symbiotic relationship between key stakeholders in patient safety such at the Louisiana Hospital Association, eQHealth Solutions (the state Medicare quality improvement organization), and our Consumer’s Right to Know Coalition. Additionally, our state has created prevention collaborative cohorts that focus on reducing infections by facilitating evidence-based prevention information exchanges between facilities and enhancing infection prevention education.

I am also fortunate to have the support of Association for Infection Prevention and Epidemiology (APIC) in Louisiana’s efforts to push toward zero infections. APIC has brought world-renowned leaders in HAI such as Dr. William Jarvis and Dr. Richard Wenzel to Louisiana to educate our infection preventionists and present evidence-based findings that may be incorporated into our patients’ scope of treatment.

Patients play a role in HAI prevention as well. Through working with other states to share and exchange information on the prevention of HAI, I was especially pleased to see consumer involvement in HAI awareness. By recognizing their role as stakeholders and advocates for safety, consumers have become more attentive to care provider actions, such as hand washing, environmental needs, and speaking up during their care plans if they notice actions that could lead to infections.

On any level of healthcare, whether delivery or administration, patient safety and infection control should be at the forefront of every action so that preventable conditions do not impede patient care. By working with stakeholders and consumers, we will achieve our zero infection goal.

Erica Washington is the Healthcare-Associated Infections (HAI) Coordinator for the State of Louisiana and implemented the first state-based National Healthcare Safety Network Data Use Agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which will improve the Louisiana’s ability to track and prevent healthcare-associated infections.

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