CVMC joins the journey to fight infections
by Emily Adams
SYLACAUGA – Coosa Valley Medical Center is seeing improvement as part of an Alabama Hospital Association initiative to reduce healthcare-associated infections and enhance the overall quality of care in Alabama hospitals.

AHA’s “Join Us on the Journey” campaign is a focused mission to improve care in several areas including infection prevention, which was the subject of a recently released report from the Alabama Department of Public Health.

According to the report, which showed data for several types of infections from hospitals across the state, CVMC had no central line-associated blood infections, no surgical site infections for colon surgeries or abdominal hysterectomies and two catheter-related urinary tract infections in 2011. In addition, the hospital had no ventilator-associated pneumonia last fiscal year, said infection preventionist Jeff Wood.

Now, using methods promoted by AHA, Wood said the hospital is hoping to reduce and maintain those positive numbers.

“We’re really focusing on making sure the patient has what the patient needs,” Wood said. “In other words, if they need the catheter, they’re going to have it, but if they don’t, we’re going to get it out. If they need a ventilator, they’re going to have it, but as soon as they don’t, we’re going to take it out.”

This and other techniques are an important part of CVMC’s prevention efforts that lead to a decreased length of stay and a better activity level for patients. The hospital uses a combination of technology and science to predict and reduce the risk of infection, said Quincy Leach, director of critical care and emergency services.

“Every time you have an infection, you have to ask why it happened,” Leach said. “You have to drill down to the root to find out what process failed and is there something we need to change to avoid that problem in the future.”

Leach said CareFusion’s MedMined, an evidence-based infection monitoring system, is beneficial to the prevention process. CVMC currently has an “excellent” rating, the highest possible, in the system.

“It’s not about alerting you of the number of infections; it’s about locating a potential process issue,” Leach said. “We can take that potential for an infection and make it more iron-clad that there won’t be an infection for the next patient.”

During the last two years, the hospital has rallied its 600-plus team members to carry out a more rigorous plan for infection prevention. Nurses no longer need physician’s approval to remove a catheter after three days; patients are weaned off a ventilator within 48 hours, if possible; and the staff follows a variety of other protocol proven to reduce the possibility of infection.

The hospital also encourages the public to prevent infections by following these steps: wash your hands frequently, cough or sneeze into your elbow, avoid sick people, avoid others if you are sick and take antibiotics exactly as prescribed.

“All of these initiatives are really important from the hospital perspective,” said Chief Nursing and Operating Officer Amy Price. “We’ve got over 600 team members that are all working to move in the same direction as far as infection prevention, but none of it would be possible without our medical staff compliance. Our medical staff leadership is really what drives the improvements we’ve seen in infection prevention. It’s our physicians who lead this charge for us every day.”

CVMC has continues to see results from its “Join the Journey” campaign efforts, said Heather Bennett, director of case management infection control and prevention.

“Join the Journey is about telling people about all the good work that we’ve done,” Bennett said. “CVMC just in the last year has committed the fiscal resources to support a full-time infection preventionist, because the hospital felt it was important enough for us to have that commitment to keep all of this where it needs to be, and we’ve really seen an improvement in the little things since we committed that resource.”

The law requiring hospitals to report their infection rates was passed in 2009, and next year, Wood said Alabama hospitals will have to report flu vaccine rates, blood stream infections and Clostridium difficile rates. The public reports not only help patients choose the right hospital for their care, but also benefit healthcare workers, Wood said.

“Infections really have been, I wouldn’t say hidden, but just not public knowledge prior to this requirement,” he said. “It has been a private thing that, now we have found from collaboration, we can pool our resources and improve care by making it public.”

CVMC Chief Executive Officer Glenn Sisk said the hospital is encouraged by its positive results from these efforts.

“One of the most important things we do as a healthcare team is contribute to excellent care in a safe environment while being squarely focused on promoting healing,” Sisk said. “I applaud the work of the CVMC team of physicians and caregivers who have worked so diligently to contribute to these encouraging results. Alabama hospitals recently ranked number one in the nation for their achievements related to quality improvement and patient safety. As a result, we hope that the confidence of our greater community continues to grow recognizing this significant achievement.”

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© 2012