Experts: Hospitals should work directly with nursing homes to address infections

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Hospitals have made much greater strides in cutting infection rates than their peers in the long-term care space and should work more closely with the latter to share know-how and better address the issues, experts with the University of Michigan Medical School wrote in an opinion piece for JAMA this week.

A lack of shared electronic medical records, disparate clinical laboratories and differing infection surveillance systems would be just a few of the obstacles to overcome.

“With increasingly integrated health care systems, hospitals should explore incorporating nursing facilities into their infection prevention risk assessment and control strategy,” authors stated. “Because nursing facilities often have limited personnel, leveraging tools and expertise from their regional hospital partners is a potential pragmatic solution.”

Researchers emphasized that the hospital industry has made great strides in using evidence-based interventions to address problems such as central-line associated bloodstream infections, surgical site infections and C. diff

But for various reasons, the authors noted, the skilled nursing and rehab care have lagged behind — be it because of the frequent use of common areas in long-term care, where infections can fester; a lack of in-house diagnostic testing and reliance on outside doctors; the prevalence of complicated medical problems; and a lack of adequate resources to tackle complicated infection issues.

“The time is right to meaningfully update infection prevention programs,” the authors wrote. “Changes in the U.S. healthcare delivery system are creating opportunities to achieve this goal by strengthening collaborations across care settings,” they continued, citing California-based Kaiser Permanente and the Veterans Health Administration as two examples of success.