Hospitals offer innovative solutions to infection prevention and control

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Infection prevention and control is an essential part of quality patient care. Canada’s academic healthcare organizations are at the forefront of research designed to reduce to risk of infection in our hospitals and other healthcare facilities. HealthCareCAN, the national voice of healthcare organizations across Canada, highlights many of these advancements in Innovation Sensation, a database that features over 200 media stories related to the prevention and control of infectious disease. A selection of these stories are featured below.

Poor hand hygiene is a problem blamed for thousands of hospital deaths per year. Researchers at University Health Network’s Toronto Rehabilitation Institute are attempting to solve the problem by equipping nurses with badges that buzz when staff members forget to wash their hands. The system requires staff to wear a badge that communicates with sensors located throughout patient areas, and go off when workers neglect to wash. Hygiene performance is recorded by the chip inside the badge, the data downloaded later by the facility. Canada’s first test with electronic monitoring of hand-hygiene dramatically improved practices at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, and could dramatically reduce the risk of infection if implemented widely.

Immunization is one of the safest and most effective measures in public health, playing a vital role in keeping Canadians healthy. A smartphone app developed by a team of Ottawa scientists called ImmunizeCA offers Canadians a convenient way to track their immunization history and schedule. Led by a team of researchers from The Ottawa Hospital and the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, the app will be updated and enhanced, incorporating new features such as customizable schedules, information for individuals with health conditions, and catch-up schedules for newcomers to Canada, including refugees. These key features will further help protect Canadians from infectious disease.

A study at Provincial Health Services Authority suggests that Canadians who received the flu vaccination halved their risk of infection that year. The estimate was drawn from a network of several hundred physicians throughout the country. An important implication from the data relates to the care of people who are at high risk of complications if they become infected. Such patients should still be monitored closely for flu-like symptoms throughout the year.

Researchers at Kingston General Hospital have discovered a new treatment for C. difficile, a bacterium that causes severe intestinal distress and disease for sufferers. C. difficile takes over the intestinal tract of a patient when a course of antibiotics has already eliminated all resistance.  It has recently been discovered that stool transplants from healthy donors are quite successful in combating C. difficile infection. However, the idea of receiving someone else’s healthy stool is unappealing to most patients.

This inspired scientists at Kingston General Hospital to test whether such transplants could be successfully done without using actual stool. They created a synthetic mixture and tested it on two elderly women with C. difficile infection who had failed treatment with antibiotics. Within two to three days, both women felt significantly better and no longer experienced symptoms of C. difficile.

A vaccine trial undertaken by Providence Health Care aims at further combating C. difficile. Royal Columbian and Surrey Memorial hospitals have recruited subjects to participate in the two-and-a-half year clinical trial that may help yield a new tool in fighting the spread of the potentially life-threatening infection. While the infection has historically affected elderly patients with chronic illness, it is increasingly affecting younger people and showing resistance to antibiotic treatment.

A Vancouver hospital has become the first in Canada to test a germ-killing robot that promises to dramatically reduce hospital-acquired infections. Vancouver General Hospital is testing the device, which uses powerful ultraviolet light to kill germs and viruses such as norovirus and C. difficile in hospital rooms, on a five-month pilot project. When the device is turned on, a robotic voice gives a 15-second countdown before a bright blue UV light shines around the room, killing harmful bugs and bacteria on all surfaces.

Health research allows for the discovery of innovative solutions aimed at reducing the risk of infection in Canada’s hospitals and other healthcare facilities, ensuring a safe and healthy environment for patients, family, and healthcare providers. For more innovations related to the prevention and control of infectious disease, please visit HealthCareCAN’s Innovation Sensation database.

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