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This award-winning blog supplements the articles in Hospital Infection Control & Prevention.

One page, many lives: APIC hits a patient handout home run

It seems benign enough, with its simple language and cartoon bugs, a piece of paper like so many others that might be handed to patients or family members upon admission. But make no mistake about it, the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) has put some powerful medicine in the hands of vulnerable patients with a newly designed education infographic.

Spread the word.

“We are putting a huge communications push behind this,” says Carol McLay RN, MPH, DrPH, CIC, chair of the APIC communications committee. “Not to just media outlets themselves, but we are going to a lot of different health care associations, organizations. We’re hoping we can really create a groundswell.”

Some 100,000 patients die every year of health care associated infections (HAIs), a good portion of which can almost certainly be prevented. Time to empower the patient and bring the IP to their bedside. A single break in technique could be all that stands between the frail immune system of a family member and a teeming colony of carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae coming down the hall on the hands of a health care worker.

Created after a few brainstorming sessions in Fort Lauderdale at APIC’s annual meeting, the simple handout holds the potential to literally save lives. Of course APIC urges patients to wash their hands often and remind health care workers to do the same. But it also includes tips and reminders about medication and injection safety, considering an antimicrobial bath before surgery, and asking if your catheter is still medically indicated.

Concerning the latter, for example, medical epidemiologist and UTI researcher Sanjay Saint, MD, warns that each day a urinary catheter remains in place the patient runs about a 5% risk of acquiring a UTI. He has also found that catheters can be “lost in place” by busy medical staff, heightening the risk of infection and a cascade of other adverse events by creating a bacterial highway to the bladder. (See Hospital Infection Control & Prevention July 2008, p. 17)

“We tried to distill this down to the most important elements and put it into a much more visual format” says Liz Garman, APIC communications director.

Hear, hear.

For more on this story see the December 2013 issue of Hospital Infection Control & Prevention.