As the focus on infection control continues to sharpen at local and federal levels, implementation assistance that the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology can provide to healthcare facilities is a welcome addition to the strategies providers already are trying, hospital officials say.
APIC announced last week that it has created a subsidiary to sell its expertise to facilities trying to establish infection-control practices. APIC Consulting Services will be a for-profit service of the association and will focus initially on providing services to reduce multidrug-resistant organisms and specific hospital-acquired infections.
The timing is right for APIC to provide these services, according to Sharon Rockman, infection prevention and control coordinator for 451-bed Sanford University of South Dakota Medical Center, part of the Sioux Falls-based Sanford Health system. The growing awareness around hospital-acquired infections and other public-health concerns such as pandemic flu has been as significant as the onset of AIDS was for shedding light on controlling the spread of infection, she said.
APIC officials say the dual role of creating strategies to fight infection and potentially profiting from helping providers implement those strategies isnt a conflict for the not-for-profit organization. The industry has shown considerable activity in the areas to be targeted by the consulting arm, and in the past few years there has been growing demand by the field for APIC to offer its expertise at the bedside, said Kathy Warye, chief executive officer of APIC and APIC Consulting. Because APIC already has compiled research on evidence-based practices, the subsidiary was a natural extension for the association, she said. Pricing for the consulting will fall within a range based on requested services. Warye declined to say what the range would be.
The relationship between the Joint Commission and its consulting arm Joint Commission Resources, which sells services on how to implement accreditation standards, also has been questioned in the past. A 2006 Government Accountability Office report said the accrediting body had created a firewall between itself and the consult arm to avoid potential conflicts.
APICs involvement in consulting makes sense, according to Sanfords Rockman. Infection control is a field that has matured and increased in importance over the past several years, said Rockman, a registered nurse who has been in the field since 1987. But as infection-control practices become embedded in all facets of a facility, the range of knowledge and resources a practitioner has to be aware of has widened, from watching for outbreaks to sorting laundry in a safe manner, she said. APIC has the people who have the experience. Theyre the logical ones to provide consulting expertise to deal with all those issues, she said.
But the need for consulting might not be readily apparent among some segments in the industry, according to William Schaffner, a physician who is associate hospital epidemiologist and chairman of the Preventive Medicine Department at 833-bed Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville. Because hospital-acquired infections have garnered so much attention recently, the larger health systems and university hospitals already have spent resources ensuring their infection-control programs are well-established, he said.
Smaller institutions, such as free-standing clinics and surgical centers, might have a stronger need for help in implementing infection-control practices, Schaffner added. Most of those institutions dont have the wealth of infection-control expertise that larger facilities already have, and APIC could provide a valuable service to them, he said.
Still, all facilities are feeling the strain of keeping up with the latest infection-control requirements. More states are mandating hospitals report infection rates to public databases, the Joint Commission continues to pay close attention to infections through its National Patient Safety Goals, and the CMS has stopped reimbursing hospitals for some hospital-acquired infections. Hospitals continue to fine-tune their surveillance techniques, Schaffner said.
Its that critical mass of attention that APIC has set its sights on. The association currently is attempting to make itself the leader in guiding practitioners on the how to of infection control. The 36-year-old organization has embarked on a strategic mission, dubbed Vision 2012, to be recognized as the infection prevention and control leader by the healthcare industry, government and accrediting authorities. The new consulting arm fits into that overall strategy, APICs Warye said.