Bar graphs ease board’s grasp of infection rates

Visual presentation has more impact

Editor: How best to communicate infection surveillance data to hospital committees and boards is a challenge to any infection control professional. Any presentation to such individuals requires that it be easily understood and yet sufficiently complete so that hospital board laypeople are able to evaluate nosocomial infection trends. We have recently worked with the chair of our Joint Conference Committee to address that issue. Various formats were presented, and the one of most value is presented in this letter as an effective method of conveying this information to the hospital board.

As a member of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Nosocomial Infections Surveillance (NNIS) system, Magee-Womens Hospital in Pittsburgh is provided with risk-adjusted benchmark data to trend nosocomial infection rates and device utilization ratios for both high-risk nursery and adult intensive care unit patients. Initial attempts to present this information through various hospital committees and the hospital board are demonstrated in Table 1. This table required significant interpretation and was not readily understood. Table 2 represents our current method of graphic presentation. Data are presented as bar graphs by current quarter, current year-to-date, previous year, and the benchmark from the NNIS System. This graphic presentation readily conveys to board members trends within the hospital surveillance program, and in addition, compares our performance against the median from the NNIS database. This enables the board to quickly observe trends and to ask appropriate questions.

The data format for Table 1 was developed within the infection control department via a word processing computer software package. Most infection control departments with personal computers probably have word processing capabilities. The initial setup of this system took approximately six hours, but the blank template was used for updates. In investigating an alternative presentation format, the infection control department consulted with the hospital’s media services team in the communications department. As a result, the graphic presentation of data in Table 2 was initially developed as a combined effort between our two departments. The initial setup time for this graphic format took approximately eight hours. That included initial setup meetings and review of drafts before the final product was produced. Quarterly updates are done in the communications department and take about one hour. The disadvantage with this process is that the communications department must adjust the height of the bars manually each time the rates and ratios are updated. We are currently developing the same type of graphic presentation using a different software package that allows rates and ratios to be automatically incorporated into graphic representation.

Presentation of surveillance data in this format has improved communication with the board and permits a full representation of intensive care infection surveillance activities on a single page. In addition to this graphic report, an executive summary in text format is attached, which includes sentinel events that require investigation, corrective action, and follow-up.

—Submitted by Sandra Jackson, RN, CBC, manager of infection control, Magee-Womens Hospital, Pittsburgh.