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Hospital and Nursing Home Infections

Posted Jan 22 2009 6:45pm

Pennsylvania's hospitals and nursing homes would be required to promptly report patient infections to state authorities and take measures to reduce such infections under a bill sent to Gov. Ed Rendell on Saturday. The measure is intended to reduce insurance premiums by requiring more stringent measures to monitor for and reduce infections that patients contract while under the care of doctors and nurses. Each hospital, outpatient surgery center and nursing home would have to develop an internal infection control system that meets the standards developed by the state Department of Health. By 2010, the department would have to establish benchmarks for individual facilities to reduce infection rates. Hospitals and nursing homes would have to report infections within 24 hours to state authorities, while hospitals also would have to report to the National Health Safety Network at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

No doubt a good move but my friend Jim Tobalski, head of marketing and his team at Novant Health System has been way ahead of the game. Novant wanted to institute a systemwide hand hygiene program and make germ prevention and infection reduction part of the system’s culture. Nationally, it's estimated that hospital staffs comply with proper hand hygiene techniques only 20 percent of the time. Novant's goal was to reach 90 percent, and eventually achieve 100 percent compliance. Marketing ran with it--and rarely does marketing gain an opportunity to make a real difference in people's lives. It initiated a unique and edgy campaign to create a buzz inside the organization and permanently change the quality and safety culture. This successful, award-winning campaign caught the attention of local and national media, in addition to other unintended audiences--such as community clergy who used the campaign’s inspirational messages in Sunday sermons. More importantly, the campaign helped shift employee opinion, increase hand hygiene compliance and save lives.

Nursing and assisted living facilities would be wise to follow suit. Of course it is the right thing to do but more than that people will take notice that you are doing it. Make the experience better and people will talk about it. No better marketing exists. Consumers should add infection rates to their list of criteria when evaluating a facility. Ask for their statistics. Or have a nurse accompany you when you are looking at facilities and have he or she ask the tough questions.
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