Innovative Healthcare Organizations Going Viral With Flu and Infection Prevention

Wayne Gretzky once said, “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” Steve Jobs echoed those same words. Two leaders who set the bar in their respective fields with their creativity–Gretzky’s innovation on ice remains a gift to young players who still try to emulate his moves in rinks across the country, and Jobs’ magic with mobile device development continues to open doors in the way information is gathered, formatted and shared. Outside the box thinking put into action is how real innovation takes life, moving the next generation forward. Health system leaders with courage and creativity, like Gretzky and Jobs, are perfecting their own innovative approaches to protect patients from the transmission of flu and infection.

Bert Fish Medical Center in New Smyrna Beach, FL created the following video on hand washing to prevent the spread of disease-causing bacteria in their community. The video was entered into a contest sponsored by Planetree, a “non-profit organization providing education and information in a collaborative community of healthcare organizations, facilitating efforts to create patient- centered care in healing environments”:

Larger healthcare organizations like MedStar Health in Washington DC and Maryland, and Virginia Mason Medical Center (VMMC) in Seattle, WA are enlisting care providers to “do as I do” by getting a flu shot in the spirit of patient safety. With healthcare provider influenza vaccination rates at 36-54% nationally, depending on when/who is collecting the data, leadership in both of these forward-looking healthcare environments took matters into their own hands.

Lynne Karanfil, RN, CIC, Corporate Coordinator, Infection Prevention at MedStar Health, Bill Thomas, MD, EVP Medical Affairs & CMO along with colleagues, published results of their mandatory, seasonal influenza vaccination program for all employees during the 2009-2010 flu season in the April 2011 issue of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, Championing Patient Safety Through Mandatory Influenza Vacccination for All Healthcare Personnel and Affiliated Physicians. The program was instituted in the best interest of MedStar patients, and with 99.9% compliance to the policy it appears as though MedStar healthcare providers felt the same way.

VMMC went to their sweet spot–rapid process improvement workshops–and applied the system’s improvement methodology to increase the number of patients who received a flu shot. The result was a “flu drive-through,” that made getting a flu shot as simple for patients as “rolling down their window and rolling up their sleeve”. Care providers met patients in a circular driveway nearby the hospital, gave the flu shot and the patient was on with their day. On the VMMC provider side, increasing the percentage of those vaccinated became an obvious next step, especially when the patient was put at the top of the VMMC strategic plan. Starting in 2006, there were now two choices at VMMC–get a flu shot or work somewhere else. While push back from the nurse’s union occurred in the first year this new employment requirement was instituted, 98% of all health care providers received the flu vaccine. The following year, the topic was no longer a cause for discussion–continued proof how truly dedicated the great majority of healthcare providers are in the effort to keep their patients safe.

In the spirit of flu season, please share you own creative solutions and examples of infection control, flu vaccination and viral video education!

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