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Gerberding conjures 2020 view of IP future
'Imagine if Bill and Linda Gates got interested in HAIs'
The time is coming when empowered patients armed with data-loaded devices and not afraid to speak up will be full partners in infection prevention, said Julie Gerberding, MD, MPH, the immediate past director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Asked to deliver a vision of the next decade in closing the Fifth Decennial International Conference on Healthcare-Associated Infections recently in Atlanta, Gerberding saw patients as vital partners with a restored trust in the health care system.
"We will not see patients and consumers as adversaries. We will not see them as victims," said Gerberding, president of Merck Vaccines in Whitehouse Station, NJ. "We will not see them as anything other than partners in preventing the development and transmission of infectious diseases. We will be able to take advantage of what they know and learn from them and ideally some of them would attend the [next decennial] conference."
Calling for "leap-frog solutions" instead of incremental gains, Gerberding said health care must be ready for empowered patients with full access to data in a brave new world of transparency and full disclosure.
"When they go into the doctor's office they will have the public [infection] reports. Transparency will be met by the information that will be instantaneously available," she said. "I see no barrier to that over the next 10 years, if anything that kind of information will escalate."
Infection rate disclosures will help restore trust and accountability in the health care system, she said, noting that is happening currently in hospitals in San Francisco.
"I have a keen interest in that since one of those hospitals is a place where I still provide patient care," she said. "I'm proud that the [San Francisco] hospitals are beginning to publicly disclose the information about their infection rates. But telling the truth is only part of rebuilding that trust that we need to have from people."
Beyond disclosure, the health care system must seek genuine "engagement" with patients and seek public-private partnerships, she said.
"We need to engage in creative ways," Gerberding said. "Engagement isn't getting an opinion or getting someone to comment on a Federal Register draft guideline. Engagement is sitting down with people and trying to meet them where they work and involve their imagination and their needs in creating solutions. Of course, public-private partnerships are going to be a growing component of that. We have seen how powerful private-public partnerships are. Imagine if Bill and Linda Gates got interested in health care associated infection prevention."
Looking to the next decennial conference in 2020, Gerberding said infectious disease prevention will operate in a complex system of globalized health care.
"The ability to move and transport people and pathogens is going to be unprecedented," she said "So the themes of this  conference may include how we collaborate across a global network what kind of partnerships and engagement strategies actually work.
"I think we will also be talking about how we conduct surveillance and prevention interventions in our retail outlets and perhaps kiosks on the streets," she noted. "I think we will hopefully be seeing some device [and needleless] innovations so that we are moving beyond device-associated infections. Our treatments will take advantage of the tremendous research and science that we have, and instead of blasting our bacteria with these big guns we will be able to subtly disable them with 'lasers' that target their virulence factor or their adhesion characteristics, and do not disrupt the normal [patient] flora that we are learning is so important in an ecological sense."
A key driver in all of this will be patients as informed consumers, a trend that is already starting with Consumer Reports publishing hospital infection rates.
"People making their own decisions," she said. "People feeling comfortable processing information for their decisions, people empowered with portable tools and information to feed those decisions. People able to say 'no' if they disagree with something that traditionally they would have accepted from an authority figure like a physician or a nurse."