Surgical procedures are a core part of the healthcare business model, and are essential to promote patient outcomes.
Every procedure presents an opportunity to restore someone’s quality of life, bringing timely healing to patients desperate for a cure. Too often, this promise is upended by a surgical site infection (SSI), which can lead to increased morbidity, mortality, length of stay, and costs.
It’s a problem with enormous repercussions. As the Annals of Medicine and Surgery explains, SSIs “are among the dangerous complications of surgical procedures that expose patients to higher costs and increase the risk of death because of severe morbidity and associated longer hospital stays.”
The World Health Organization reports that, in the US, “[SSIs] contribute to patients spending more than 400,000 extra days in hospital at an additional cost of $900 million per year.”
That’s why healthcare providers must implement evidence-based strategies to reduce the risk of SSIs and other complications. Here are four recent advances in perioperative infection prevention that can help healthcare providers maximize patient outcomes.
1. More Accurate Risk Modeling
Artificial intelligence (AI) is amid a well-publicized breakthrough with potentially profound repercussions for the healthcare sector. The AI healthcare market is expected to reach $187 billion by the end of the decade, underscoring its expansive potential throughout the industry.
While differentiating hype from real-world impact can be difficult, one area where AI is already making a difference is leveraging medical data to anticipate risks.
Risk prediction models, which analyze health risk factors to estimate and anticipate patient health outcomes, are supercharged by AI, amplifying healthcare providers’ capacity to assess patient risks and empowering patients with the best information to make essential healthcare decisions.
As one report from the journal Diagnostics explains, “Clinical decision support tools assist in making informed decisions related to treatments, medications, mental health, and other patient needs by swiftly providing relevant information or research.”
The Center for Outcomes & Patient Safety in Surgery (COMPASS) is looking to put this potential into practice in the OR, leveraging AI to “predict and model surgical risk and determine the best interventions, or treatments, for high-risk patients.”
These insights do more than just help healthcare providers anticipate the future. They allow them to analyze past patient care methodologies and identify areas of improvement to continually advance potential care outcomes.
2. More Effective (and Safe) Fogging Solutions
Cleaning and disinfection are essential to sustainable healthcare services, especially in the OR. However, manual protocols have been proven to be expensive, ineffective, and inefficient, creating an opportunity for automated disinfection technology to augment and enhance disinfection protocols.
When fogging with hypochlorous acid (HOCl), healthcare providers can disinfect with a nontoxic solution that reaches 100% of surfaces. Unlike many toxic and corrosive disinfectants, HOCl is pH neutral and suitable for use on various surfaces, including electronics, without causing buildup or damage.
Nevoa’s handheld fogger with Microburst hypochlorous acid (HOCI) kills 99.9999% of the most common SSI-causing pathogens in just one minute, including MRSA, S. aureus, and P. aeruginosa, highlighting the impact that tech-driven solutions can have on operational efficiency and patient outcomes.
New technology like fogging has prompted AORN and other organizations to review their recommendations for disinfection, with new guidelines expected in 2024. Now is a great time to consider advanced fogging technology to improve disinfection in your healthcare facility.
3. FDA-Approved Options for Instrument Sterilization
It’s well-known that “sterilization of surgical instruments is one of the classical and fundamental measures needed for the prevention of surgical site infections.” Fortunately, emerging technologies are making OR instrument sterilization more efficient and effective than ever before.
For example, low-temperature sterilization processes, including vaporized hydrogen peroxide (VHP) and ozone sterilization, are making it easier to sterilize heat-sensitive equipment. Sterilization solutions require FDA approval, and the journal Microorganisms reports, “Several VHP sterilization family devices have been approved by the FDA for sale in the US market.”
With the FDA actively pushing innovation in OR sterilization techniques, it’s clear that new technologies will continue to emerge, allowing OR decision-makers to actively engage with the solutions that produce the best results. Today, healthcare providers can make their OR more efficient and cost-effective, safely sterilizing tools and controlling costs in the process.
4. RFID Tags That Reduce Unintended Retained Surgical Items
When a procedure is complete, the healing process begins – unless you are one of the unfortunate patients with an unintended retained surgical item in the procedural cavity. Fortunately, AORN reports that the number of reported incidents has declined – just 88 events were disclosed in 2022 – but each incident includes inherent costs and health risks that are better avoided.
Historically, OR teams relied on manual counting procedures to account for surgical items before closing the patient. However, tech-based solutions, including radio-frequency identification (RFID) and data-matrix barcode scanning, are making prevention easier and more efficient than ever.
This technology helps care providers pinpoint the exact location of items like sponges, which are embedded with an RFID chip, and detected using a wand. The growing adoption of this technology supports OR teams and adds an extra layer of protection to help ensure positive patient outcomes.
This is good for patients and good for OR teams. As AORN explains, it “takes some pressure off OR teams, who sometimes must scour the surgical room for instruments like sponges that may have fallen on the floor or in the trash.”
Embracing Tech Together
SSIs pose a real risk to patient safety, undermining the OR’s positive impact on patient health outcomes and ballooning costs for already cash-strapped healthcare providers.
The latest advances in perioperative infection prevention are transforming surgical care and improving patient outcomes, helping to accomplish both health and financial objectives without compromise.
Embracing the latest solutions doesn’t have to be daunting. Start by identifying the problem you want to solve, and then look to innovators delivering solutions that work.
Perhaps most importantly, you’re never alone in the process. Our team is here to help you navigate the latest advances in perioperative infection prevention.