Healthcare managers and providers are scrambling to find out what they can use on patients, now that many common infections are resistant to standard antibiotics. They are looking for that next wonder drug - that magic bullet that will make the patient all better. It’s a way of thinking brought on by the post-World War II mindset of a shot of penicillin being a universal cure-all. Those days are over.
Prevention is the new antibiotic, and may be the only solid defense against new strains of bacteria that have the potential to kill the most vulnerable among us. This is changing the approach to how nursing home residents are cared for. Caregivers must now take serious steps to ensure that their charges don’t get an infection in the first place now that many of the old cures are less effective or simply will no longer work.
The obvious course of action is to have long term care equipment be the crux of infection control and prevention. This is easier said than done. Most equipment used in nursing homes is based on designs and concepts that are nearly half a century old. The idea was to manage the patients in the most efficient way possible, and take care of any resulting infection with a quick shot or two of an antibiotic. Lighter materials and better ergonomics doesn’t mean that it is better or safer for the patient’s health. The points where cross contamination occur are still there whether it’s stainless steel or plastic. Equipment must be designed for infection control from the ground up, and naturally work with the idea of infection control and prevention being the new antibiotic.
Like with all things, the ultimate success of any device falls on the end user. This means that any piece of equipment designed as a preventative measure must be easy for caregivers to use, and cost effective for the facility to own. If it isn’t, it ultimately won’t work. Simplicity and ease of use are vital parts of this new era where infection control is so important. For all our sakes, let’s hope that it’s an idea that catches on.