Reducing Infections and Saving Lives in Alaska

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Description:  Healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) are serious medical conditions, especially for older adults. One particularly severe type of HAI is caused by the germ Clostridium difficile (or C. difficile), which, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), caused nearly half a million infections in 2011. Of those who contracted the infection, 29,000 died with 30 days. 

Given the lethal nature of the infection, it’s not surprising that when a C. difficile outbreak occurred in an Alaska hospital unit in early 2015—resulting in one death—the hospital took swift action.

One of the first calls by the hospital’s infection preventionist was to Mountain–Pacific Quality Health (Mountain-Pacific) – the Quality Innovation Network-Quality Improvement Organization (QIN-QIO) serving Alaska, Montana, Wyoming, Hawaii, and the jurisdictions of Guam, American Somoa and Saipan. Mountain-Pacific quickly intervened, analyzing hospital data to trace every C. difficile infection to an admission or readmission in one specific unit.

Mountain-Pacific’s Alaska task lead, Lori Chikoyak, met with the hospital’s infection preventionist to provide critical training about effective C. difficile prevention, including what Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-approved cleaning agents to use, and how to properly sanitize with them. Hospital employees, from cleaning staff to management, were also instructed on the best practices for preventing infections, which were eventually codified in updated hospital policies.

Results: As a result of Mountain-Pacific’s intervention, the hospital was able to properly clean the hospital, update its policies and procedures, and reduce the number of infections at the hospital to only one single case for the remainder of the year (August to December 2015).