Reducing Gaps in Surface Sampling and Testing in Healthcare

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There is no shortage of regulations, requirements, consensus standards, and protocols for processes and procedures in healthcare. In fact, healthcare continues to be an industry with the greatest numbers of regulations, policies, requirements, and oversight organizations that design, monitor, and measure outcomes. Especially compared to other economic or professional sectors, including manufacturing and agriculture, where injuries, illnesses, and errors in healthcare occur more frequently. There is very little argument that this should be the case. After all, quality and safety in healthcare can be the difference between life and death – for both patients and healthcare workers alike.

Oversight and standards setting groups include the Joint Commission and State Departments of Health and Public Health, and alphabet soup national and international organizations like OSHA, EPA, CDC, WHO, AAMI, ANSI, APIC, AHE, ACHA, ISO, AHRQ, FDA and ASTM, to name but a few. These groups establish protocols and best practices for all sorts of processes, procedures, and products including diagnostic testing, materials compatibility, safety, shelf life, packaging, sterility, quality measures, biocompatibility, and electrical, physical, and flammability parameters.

Relative to healthcare surfaces and their impact on infections and illness however, there is a great deal of fragmentation both within and across oversight and standards setting groups. This is especially true as it pertains to protocols for surface sampling, materials compatibility, cleanability, contamination rates, durability, testing methods, and outcome and intervention measures.

The Healthcare Surfaces Summit (HSS) is a non-profit organization, which has commissioned a literature review and meta-analysis designed as a comprehensive summary of what currently exists, what gaps are present, and what is needed in the future.

Preliminary results from the literature review will be presented at the 3rd annual HSS, August 21-22 event in Bloomington, Minnesota. This project will drive the work that the HSS initiative groups will undertake throughout the year. It will also serve as foundation for the creation of  “incubators”. These incubators will be a proactive approach to testing and measuring the impact surfaces have on the acquisition and transmission of healthcare acquired infections.

As you read in last month’s blog, some of our goals for achievement at the Summit include:

  • Review and analysis of existing research to make recommendations focused on gaps that are not understood and must be addressed
  • Support and collaboration on the development of surface selection criteria, infection protocol and the use of effective test methods for validation, consistent and in compliance with regulations

In staying true to our mission, this standards-focused work is designed to reduce preventable infections through collaboration with our partners, sponsors, and members to interrupt the transmission of surface related pathogens in healthcare.

We invite you to collaborate along with us at Healthcare Surfaces Summit, August 21 & 22, 2018 in Bloomington. For more information: healthcaresurfacessummit.org.

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Linda Lybert