Infection Preventionists Not Fully Leveraging IT, Study Says

The push to embrace information technology to control the spread of infections is on. However, relatively few front-line infection preventionists (formerly known as infection control professionals) have taken up the cause, according to a new study from the Regenstrief Institute, Indianapolis.

In the study, which was published on Feb. 18, the researchers found that half of the infection preventionists surveyed were unaware of whether their hospital or health system participated in a health information exchange. And, only 10 percent of infection preventionists indicated that their organizations were formally engaged in health information exchange activities.

Although 70 percent of infection preventionists surveyed reported access to an electronic medical record system, less than 20 percent were involved in the design, selection or implementation of the system. Without such involvement, those surveyed indicated the information systems often did not include modules or components that supported infection control activities.

Such distancing from IT raises some concerns as Regenstrief and other organizations have encouraged the use of technology to improve infection prevention efforts. 

 “There is a push from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to reduce hospital-acquired infections and increase the use of electronic health record systems,” said lead author Brian Dixon, MPA, PhD, Regenstrief Institute investigator and assistant professor in the School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. "The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are encouraging local and state health departments to use health information technologies to improve infectious disease reporting and prevention activities.”

More specifically, the study found that while hospital-based infection preventionists have access to health information technology, they lack specially designed computer tools needed to sift through the massive amounts of data in electronic medical records. According to the study, infection preventionists must be made part of the selection and implementation of health information technologies to spur the development of technologies that will prevent and halt the spread of infection.

“Infection Preventionists’ Awareness of and Engagement in Health Information Exchange to Improve Public Health Surveillance” was published in the American Journal of Infection Control. The study was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.