Key learnings on infection control a year into the COVID-19 pandemic

*By Greg Miziolek, President, BD-Canada

COVID-19 has been a catalyst. Amid the pandemic, infection control in hospitals and other medical environments have undergone significant change to protect patients, healthcare workers and the public.

Hospital-acquired infections, sometimes referred to as healthcare-associated infections (HAIs), are the most frequent adverse events to impact patients.[i] Common types of HAIs include urinary tract infections (UTI), bloodstream infections (BSI), and infections by organisms such as Clostridioides difficile (C. diff), methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) or Vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE).[ii] HAIs posed a major risk to patients and healthcare workers throughout 2019-2020 – 19,591 suffered from UTIs, 1,288 suffered from central line-associated bloodstream infections, and 5,321 suffered from infections due to Clostridium difficile, MRSA or VRE.[iii]


The combined threat of HAIs and COVID-19 has led hospitals to implement stricter measures following the Public Health Agency of Canada’s evidence-informed infection prevention and control guidelines.iv As a leading medical technology company, BD-Canada has been working with organizations across Canada to evolve best practices and deliver the tools and systems needed by infection preventionists in acute care settings. We have seen remarkable changes in both policy and practice, many driven by the unprecedented learnings of this time and could remain in place in a post-pandemic era.

Diagnostics have always been an integral part of infection control but in this period of COVID-19, the quick identification of contagious individuals is paramount to keeping everyone safe. With support from rapid antigen tests such as those read by the BD Veritor™ Plus System, healthcare workers can identify, isolate and treat COVID-19 positive individuals within 15 minutes of administering the test, preventing further spread within the hospital and larger community.

Paired with the widespread use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and the strict enforcement of proper hand hygiene and sanitation,ii point-of-care risk assessment and efficient lab-based PCR testing enables healthcare workers to act fast, while arming them with the information they need to help contain infections – from COVID-19 to the flu and HAIs.

There is also now more comprehensive engineering and administrative controls, such as facility design changes and product preparedness. Frequent surface sanitation and handwashing, rigorous isolation practices and measures to reduce unnecessary physical contact today prevent the dangerous spread of COVID-19.ii In the future, such practices, as well as solutions with built-in product preparedness and instruction, may reduce errors that lead to HAIs. Tools like the BD Zero-In™ comprehensive clinical solution program magnify variation in Foley catheter management practices, helping to identify training needs.v,vi

Finally, we have seen the vigilant active surveillance and reporting of COVID-19 symptoms among patients, visitors, and healthcare workers.ii With systems in place to screen, surveil and track COVID-19 infections, hospital staff can contain the spread of the virus, minimize its impact, and identify trends and recommendations to avoid future outbreaks. With those same principles and aided by innovative informatics and analytics tools such as BD Healthsight™ Infection Advisor, the proper surveillance and reporting of HAIs can help track interventions and inform process improvements.

The pandemic has had devastating impacts on our health system, but it has also afforded us invaluable learnings. As a community, it’s our collective responsibility to ensure these learnings help us improve our practices and protocols long after the COVID-19 virus is eliminated to continually enhance patient outcomes.

To learn more about our response to COVID-19 in Canada, visit bd.com/COVID19-hospitalnews

i “The Burden of Health Care-associated Infection Worldwide.” World Health Organization. November 21, 2017. Accessed February 08, 2021. https://www.who.int/infection-prevention/publications/burden_hcai/en/.

ii Canada, Public Health Agency of. “Government of Canada.” Canada.ca. June 29, 2018. Accessed February 08, 2021. https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/corporate/transparency/corporate-management-reporting/evaluation/healthcare-associated-infection-activities-2012-2017.html#es.

iii Discharge Abstract Database, 2014–2015, 2015–2016, 2016–2017, 2017–2018, 2018–2019 and 2019–2020, Canadian Institute for Health Information. https://www.cihi.ca/en/discharge-abstract-database-metadata-dad

iv Canada, Public Health Agency of. “Government of Canada.” Canada.ca. January 08, 2021. Accessed February 08, 2021.  https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/health-professionals/infection-prevention-control-covid-19-second-interim-guidance.html

v BD-Canada. BD Zero-In™ comprehensive clinical solution program brochure.

vi Canadian Patient Safety Institute. Hospital Harm Improvement Resource: Urinary Tract Infection. April 2016. Accessed February 10, 2021. https://www.patientsafetyinstitute.ca/en/toolsResources/Hospital-Harm-Measure/Documents/Resource-Library/HHIR%20UTI.pdf.

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