How Medical Devices Can Help Reduce Hospital-Acquired Infections
Hospital-acquired infections (HAIs), also known as health care-associated infections or nosocomial infections, are infections that patients acquire during or after receiving health care in a hospital or other health care facility. HAIs can cause serious complications and increase the length of stay, cost, and mortality of patients.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), HAIs affect millions of patients worldwide every year and are a major public health problem. The most common types of HAIs include urinary tract infections, surgical site infections, bloodstream infections, and pneumonia. The main causes of HAIs are the transmission of microorganisms from one patient to another, from health care workers to patients, or from the environment to patients.
Infection prevention and control (IPC) is a practical, evidence-based approach to prevent patients and health workers from being harmed by avoidable infections. IPC involves various measures, such as hand hygiene, personal protective equipment, disinfection and sterilization, waste management, isolation precautions, and antimicrobial stewardship.
Medical devices are any instruments, apparatuses, software, materials, or other articles that are intended by the manufacturer to be used for medical purposes. Medical devices can play an important role in IPC by reducing the risk of HAIs. Some examples of medical devices that can help prevent HAIs are:
- Single-use devices: These are devices that are designed to be used only once and then discarded. Single-use devices can prevent the transmission of microorganisms between patients or from contaminated reusable devices. Examples of single-use devices include syringes, needles, catheters, gloves, masks, gowns, and surgical instruments.
- Smart devices: These are devices that have sensors, software, or other features that can monitor or improve the performance or safety of the device or the user. Smart devices can help prevent HAIs by alerting health workers of potential risks or errors, providing feedback or guidance, or automating certain tasks. Examples of smart devices include smart infusion pumps, smart thermometers, smart stethoscopes, and smart surgical robots.
- Antimicrobial devices: These are devices that have coatings or materials that can kill or inhibit the growth of microorganisms on their surfaces or in their surroundings. Antimicrobial devices can help prevent HAIs by reducing the microbial load on the device or in the environment. Examples of antimicrobial devices include antimicrobial catheters, antimicrobial dressings, antimicrobial sutures, and antimicrobial air filters.
However, medical devices can also pose challenges for IPC if they are not used properly or maintained adequately. Some challenges include:
- Device-related infections: These are infections that are caused by the insertion or implantation of a medical device into the body. Device-related infections can occur due to contamination of the device before or during use, biofilm formation on the device surface, or migration of microorganisms along the device tract. Examples of device-related infections include catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTIs), central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSIs), and ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP).
- Device reprocessing: This is the process of cleaning, disinfecting, or sterilizing reusable medical devices between uses. Device reprocessing can be complex and time-consuming and requires adherence to strict protocols and standards. Improper device reprocessing can result in residual contamination or damage of the device and increase the risk of HAIs. Examples of reusable medical devices include endoscopes, surgical instruments, and ventilators.
- Device malfunction: This is the failure of a medical device to perform as intended or expected. Device malfunction can be caused by design flaws, manufacturing defects, user errors, or environmental factors. Device malfunction can compromise the quality and safety of health care and increase the risk of HAIs. Examples of device malfunction include infusion pump errors, thermometer inaccuracies, stethoscope noise interference, and surgical robot breakdowns.
Therefore, it is essential to ensure that medical devices are safe, effective, and appropriate for IPC purposes. This requires collaboration and coordination among various stakeholders, such as manufacturers, regulators, health care providers, and patients. Some strategies to improve the use and management of medical devices for IPC include:
- Developing and implementing evidence-based guidelines and standards for the selection, procurement, distribution, use, maintenance, and disposal of medical devices for IPC.
- Providing training and education for health care workers and patients on the proper and safe use and care of medical devices for IPC.
- Monitoring and evaluating the performance, safety, and impact of medical devices for IPC through surveillance, audit, and feedback systems.
- Promoting innovation and research on the development, testing, and implementation of new or improved medical devices for IPC.
In conclusion, medical devices can help reduce HAIs by providing effective and efficient tools for diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of infections. However, medical devices can also pose challenges for IPC if they are not used properly or maintained adequately. Therefore, it is important to ensure that medical devices are safe, effective, and appropriate for IPC purposes. This requires collaboration and coordination among various stakeholders and the implementation of evidence-based strategies to improve the use and management of medical devices for IPC. By doing so, we can improve the quality and safety of health care and reduce the burden of HAIs.