Devices & Technology

CDC National Healthcare Safety Network


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By Suzi Birz, principal, HiQ Analytics, LLC

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently announced the availability of a secure, Web-based reporting network that lets facilities track infections associated with health care.

“The CDC has been involved in surveillance and prevention of healthcare associated infections for more than 30 years and this system represents another milestone,” said Chesley Richards, M.D., Deputy Director of the Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion at the CDC.

The system, the National Healthcare Safety network (NHSN), has more than 600 participants and is utilized in 44 states to report healthcare-associated infection (HAI) surveillance data. Each facility has committed to specific reporting requirements such as using CDC surveillance definitions and protocols in order to be accepted as a participant. “The commitment for the data is important for national trend analysis and local usage over months to make valid comparisons,” explained Richards.

CDC’s previous system, National Nosocomial Infection Surveillance (NNIS), had approximately 300 participating facilities and helped infection-control professionals and hospitals stay abreast of the science and practice of infection prevention and control and better manage episodes of health care associated infections.

“NHSN builds upon NNIS to upgrade the data collection and analysis tool and to enable the expansion of the system to include infection control in long term care facilities, ambulatory surgery settings, dialysis centers, and other emerging health care delivery environments,” explained Richards.

NHSN has a Patient Safety Component and a Healthcare Personnel Safety Component.

The Patient Safety Component allows entry of event and denominator data for both device-associated and procedure-associated events as well as data entry for microbiology susceptibility and antimicrobial use. The data analysis features of NHSN range from rate tables and graphs to statistical analysis that compares the healthcare facility’s rates with national performance measures.

“The foundation of NNIS and now NHSN that really makes this work is the data standards,” said Theresa Gratton, RN, BSN, Infection Prevention and Control Co-Coordinator at St. Mary’s Health Center in St. Louis, Missouri. “The stringent quality control and data definitions allowed us to be confident that we were doing accurate benchmarking and comparing ‘apples to apples’ when we compare our hospital’s rates to the national rates,” explained Gratton.

“The CDC developed several ways to ensure appropriate training now that the system is available nation-wide and to health care facilities beyond the hospital,” noted Richards. “We built web tools, we provide seminars, we are available for technical support and we produce a newsletter with information and frequently asked questions.”

Benefits to Nursing

“To keep patients safe while they are at the facility,” stated Gratton, “you have to actively look for infections and NHSN provides tools to help you do that.”

“NHSN has a huge volume of resources available in one location,” noted Gratton. “Literature and research, in addition to the analysis tools and protocol information including device and procedure events, Central Line-Associated Bloodstream Infection, Ventilator-Associated Pneumonia, Catheter-Associated Urinary Tract Infection, and Dialysis Incident as well as Surgical Site Infection and Post-Procedure Pneumonia.”

In NHSN, a new tool is the group function which allows a hospital to give other hospitals in a group access to comparison data. “The data is important for national benchmarking, but the facilities can also use the system locally to collect data to get perspective on a specific facility’s issues,” said Richards.

Gratton agreed, “We are excited to have our sister hospitals join NHSN so that our Network facilities can evaluate comparative data and have the ability to work on identified issues together.”

What’s Next?

NHSN will soon allow for the collection of healthcare worker influenza vaccination data through the Healthcare Personnel Safety Component.

Coming soon in the Patient Safety Component are modules that will focus on multidrug resistant organisms, central line insertion practices, and high-risk patient influenza vaccination.

Currently, the system requires manual data entry by the infection control practitioners. The CDC has a funded project to explore improvements in the data entry including methods to interface the data from the facility’s computer systems to NHSN. “This automatic population could change the role of the infection control practitioner, requiring less time for data collection and allowing more time to implement prevention guidelines,” said Richards.

Take Away

Gratton concluded, “We are now in an era of patient safety and we can look to ourselves and others to examine benchmarks and improve – that is what will make us a safer place to care for our patients.”

“Knowledge is power,” said Richards. “If the data is available to nurses, they can use the data to prevent infections and improve patient care.”

© 2007. AMN Healthcare, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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