Oct 7, 2015

A New Approach to Saving Lives

I think we’ve been going about things the wrong way. 

Remember back as a kid in school and they would have us brush our teeth, we’d eat this red candy-like nasty tasting thing and whatever places we missed turned our teeth red?



Why can’t we do this with germs? 
Think about it … flu germs, cold germs, nasty bacteria, anything.  If we could SEE it, we might be able to combat it.
As a Mom, I'd LOVE something like this in my home. I could see where the germs are lurking.  My kids do what my mom used to call, "A lick and a promise" when asked to wipe a cabinet or sweep a floor. If they could actually SEE the germs they missed, maybe they'd be more helpful in wanting to join my crusade.  Or maybe not. Maybe I'm delusional.

As a Mother to several kids with special needs, two of which are immunocompromised, I find it strange how people think nothing of going out in public while quite ill. They almost wear it as a badge of honor, "Look at me out here doing stuff while I'm sick as a dog!" I need to be able to see these germs a mile away. 

As a Professional, I deal in the world of vascular access and general health care concerns. We know that hospital acquired infections are a huge loss of money for a hospital, not to mention complications for the patient including morbidity and mortality.  We also know that simple things like good hand hygiene can drastically help reduce these infections. 

So what if they were VISIBLE? 

4 years ago, one such bug got into my son’s IV and nearly killed him.  Any parent who has seen their 2 year old in septic shock fighting for their life will not take these bugs lightly.  Since then, I’ve been asking questions of how we can make system wide changes for people to do the right thing like wash hands, scrub the hub and increase general education for clinicians as well as the general population.

Today it hit me … make the germs visible! Then we could SEE which clinicians are “Typhoid Mary”, which surfaces are teeming with bacteria and which instruments haven’t been properly cleaned.  We could also visibly see what chemicals kill these germs so we can know the most effective treatments.

It’s estimated by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) that there were 722,000 hospital acquired infections in 2011 (the latest updated source I could find).  And about 75,000 die from these infections.  Read the following article if you dare.  But you’ve been warned, you will feel the need to scrub after. 

For those who would just rather the down and dirty, it says 1 in 25 are estimated to get a hospital acquired infection each year.  For those of us who are frequent flyers, or who have immunocompromised loved ones, this is particularly scary.  My son has had several in his short 6 years of life. 

For comparison, here are some breast cancer statistics.  http://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/understand_bc/statistics

Basically it estimates there are just under 300,000 cases of breast cancer per year and about 40,000 deaths.  That’s horrible.  One death is too many.  And I’m thankful lots of attention is being placed on this epidemic. 

What’s shocking to me is that basically NO emphasis is being placed on these hospital acquired infections and the numbers are more than double for getting an infection and almost double the rate of deaths.  But instead of highlighting the infection rates and need for system wide improvement, it’s virtually a “dirty little secret.”  No pink ribbons, no football players going pink, no one talking about it at all. 

Another difference between these hospital acquired infections and breast cancer is that with the breast cancer, there is currently no known cure or preventative.  There IS for these infections.  Which makes each death just that much more painful in my opinion.
The good news is ... there is a group working towards addressing these issues.  AVA and the AVA Foundation (www.http://avainfo.org) are working collaboratively with governmental agencies, medical organizations, schools of nursing, the private sector and patient advocacy groups to help shed awareness of and solutions to the problem. Don't be surprised that you'll be hearing more about these infections in the near future. 
We need your help! 

So back to my idea … anyone know how to make germs visible?  It could save about 75,000 lives each year.  One could be yours or someone you love.