Accreditation

Joint Commission issues another warning about improperly cleaned medical devices

Accreditation Insider, May 30, 2017

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For the second time in three years, The Joint Commission has released a Quick Safety issue on the topic of improperly sterilized or high-level disinfection (HLD) equipment and devices. The accreditor writes that despite bringing the problem to light in 2014, there’s an increase in cases of medical devices not being cleaned properly.

“Immediate threat to life (ITL) declarations related to improperly sterilized or high-level disinfected (HLD) equipment have increased significantly from 2013-2016,” wrote Lisa Waldowski, DNP, PNP, CIC, Joint Commission infection control specialist, in a blog post. “In 2016, 74% of all ITL declarations from The Joint Commission were related to improperly sterilized or HLD equipment. As reports of sterilization and HLD-related issues continue to be received by our Office of Quality and Patient Safety, our surveyors also are seeing it firsthand in hospitals, ambulatory care sites and other healthcare settings across the country.”

According to Quick Safety Issue 33, noncompliance with standard IC.02.02.01 (which deals with sterilization) has been on the rise since 2009 in Joint Commission-accredited hospitals, critical access hospitals, ambulatory centers, and office-based surgery facilities.

There are several risks tied to improper reprocessing such as infection and outbreaks, loss of accreditation, litigation, negative publicity, and lost revenue. A prime example of this occurred during the 2015-2016 outbreaks, when it was discovered that the design of the duodenoscopes could prevent them from being properly sterilized.

There are several factors that are causing this rise in noncompliance, according to The Joint Commission. These include:

•    The incorrect assumption that the risk of infection to patients is low or nonexistent
•    Staff either don’t know how to properly sterilize or HLD equipment or they knowingly chose not to follow proper procedures 
•    Lack of leadership oversight and the belief that sterilization or HLD is a low priority
•    A culture that discourages the reporting of safety risks
•    No dedicated staff person to oversee the proper sterilization or HLD of equipment
•    Facility design or space issues prevent proper sterilization or HLD of equipment
•    Lack of monitoring or documentation of sterilization or HLD of equipment

“Healthcare organizations need to prioritize improving sterilization and HLD efforts year-round and well before a survey occurs to best protect patients,” says Waldowski. “Together, we can work to change news headlines from reporting on sterilization or HLD-related outbreaks to touting reductions in outbreaks through quality improvement efforts.”

 



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