Healthcare 360: Patient Safety and Preventing Infection

August 30, 2023

Podcast: Patient Safety and Preventing Infection with Dr. Sharon Wright

On this week’s episode of Healthcare 360, Dr. Rob Fields sits down with Dr. Sharon Wright, Chief Infection Prevention Officer at Beth Israel Lahey Health, to discuss infection prevention in healthcare, especially on the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Analyzing How We Provide Care

Dr. Wright, a healthcare epidemiologist who has extensive training in infectious diseases, names infection prevention as the origin of healthcare quality.

Describing her work, she says, “What we try to do in infection prevention is to help our clinical staff make things as safe as they can to prevent infections in the ways that we know are available and evaluate every infection as: was it potentially preventable or not?”

“And if we can find things that we can do better,” she continues, “Then to move forward with those and also to try to think outside the box to put in other preventative measures and to do research in ways that we can try to help nationally to be better in preventing infections.”

Proactively Working to Reduce Risk

While emphasizing that the potential risk for infection is never zero, Dr. Wright discusses a variety of ways healthcare professionals can significantly reduce that risk. She names people, process and technology as concrete examples.

Referring to the frontline healthcare staff shortage, Dr. Wright explains that hospitals often end up working with temporary staff, traveling staff and new staff – all of whom need training.

“So the more that we can standardize our processes, standardize our education, especially as we become more and more of a system and patients and staff go back and forth between different facilities,” she says, “The more that they don't have to relearn something every time they come in for a shift whether that's what antibiotics are on formulary, what types of catheters they have to use to insert, you know, what type of hand hygiene product they should be using. I mean, the list goes on and on.”

She also hopes that technology will be able to further aid infection prevention efforts in time. She wonders if “there are ways that we can use even machine learning to help us detect infections or maybe even more importantly, when a patient comes in based on their medical history that's in the electronic record, are there certain keywords that we can find or characteristics of a patient that we know that they're at higher risk of acquiring a certain type of infection, so we can put additional protections in place to try to prevent that infection from developing in the first place.”

Every other week, we’ll chat with a leading expert in healthcare to learn about the many challenges and opportunities facing the industry. Listen to the full conversation with Dr. Sharon Wright here, and check in regularly for new episodes of Healthcare 360.

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