Making structural improvements in health care

Systemic factors lead to specific practices


Every day, hospitalists devote time and energy to the best practices that can limit the spread of infection and the development of antibiotic resistance. Infection Prevention (IP) and Antimicrobial Stewardship (ASP) are two hospital programs that address that same goal.

But there may be a more effective approach possible, according to Jerome A. Leis, MD, MSc, FRCPC, of the Centre for Quality Improvement and Patient Safety at the University of Toronto.

“Despite the high-quality evidence supporting these IP/ASP interventions, our approach to adding these to our current practice sometimes feels like adding scaffolding to a rickety building,” he said. “It supports the underlying structure, but remove the scaffolding without fixing the building, and it may just come tumbling down.” Sometimes the work seems like an uphill battle, he added, as the same problems continue to recur.

That’s because there’s a systemic element to the problems. “Hospitalists know first hand about how the system that we work in makes it difficult to ensure that all the best IP/ASP practices are adhered to all the time,” Dr. Leis said. “Simply reminding staff to remove a urinary catheter in a timely fashion or clean their hands every single time they touch a patient or the environment can only get us so far.” That’s where improvement science comes in.


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