Doctor and nurse going over data shown on charts
HealthMarch 29, 2019

Early Response to Measles is Critical to Prevent an Outbreak

Measles is one of the most infectious diseases; up to 9 out of 10 susceptible persons with close contact to an infected person will develop measles. The number of cases is increasing in the U.S., from January 1 to March 21, 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified 314 confirmed cases of measles across 15 states. That total is more than 80% of the 372 cases reported during all of 2018. Measles is still common in many parts of the world, including Europe, Asia and Africa. In the U.S., international travelers with measles continue to spread disease and the majority of people who got measles were unvaccinated. These factors make measles a key area of focus for infection prevention teams for the foreseeable future.

Three Ways Clinical Surveillance Technology Can Improve Your Response to Measles

As an infection preventionist, once measles is identified in the healthcare setting, you know that you’re dealing with a highly contagious virus that is transmitted by direct contact with infectious droplets or by particles in the air that can remain infectious for up to two hours even after an infected person has left the area. With that said, timeliness is critical and facilities need to identify infectious patients as early as possible.

When a case occurs in a healthcare facility, many extensive measures must be taken immediately including:

  • decisions with patient placement including patient isolation in a special airborne infection isolation room (AIIR) if available
  • use of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) by healthcare personnel
  • exclusion of susceptible healthcare personnel from patient care activities
  • mandated reporting to public health
  • identification of exposed staff
  • post-exposure prophylaxis or exclusion of any exposed and susceptible staff, as well as
  • ongoing surveillance for any additional cases moving forward

It’s a lot to manage as an infection preventionst, especially when other healthcare-associated infections also take center stage. A new research study presented at the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) 45th Annual Conference demonstrated the importance of an integrated infection prevention response during a large Minnesota measles outbreak. The study concluded that an integrated system response including use of standard processes and leveraging the electronic health record for real-time information sharing allowed the organization to adjust prevention strategies in a timely way, leading to effective control of the outbreak. The key capability to improve effectiveness of interventions: being able to respond in real-time.

This study highlights why an infection prevention and control plan is critical. The following are three key ways clinical surveillance technology can give your team an advantage and help prepare for a measles or another potential infectious disease outbreak such as the one experienced in Minnesota:

  1. Leverage surveillance technology evidence-based content to quickly identify infectious diseases or conditions. Your health care technology systems, including your EHR, contain a wealth of data, from clinical notes, vitals or lab data that must be tapped to stay one step ahead. Leveraging third-party surveillance solutions that integrate with the EHR allow you to monitor patient information in real-time across systems, making infection prevention more efficient and effective. Advanced technology is required to normalize data across disparate systems and identify trends by searching for key words or results that might identify an infectious yet preventable condition, like measles alongside healthcare-associated infections.
  2. Real-time alerts that you can trust delivered to a mobile device allowing for timely infection prevention strategies. You are constantly on the go and not having to rely on manual review of patient charts and compiling information is critical to a timely response to an infectious risk. Clinical surveillance solutions allow you to configure automatic email alerts if a patient is identified or when key thresholds are met, empowering your team to respond quickly with appropriate infection prevention measures. This can be accomplished because the robust functionality that typically come with these systems allows you to analyze and identify trends based on built-in statistical models, defined thresholds, or by evidence-based rules/parameters set up to track key infectious diseases that are part of your facility’s infection prevention and control plan.
  3. Efficiently report cases. As an IP, you spend an immense amount of time monitoring and reporting infectious diseases or conditions from measles to C. difficile to meningococcal disease. Surveillance technology can lighten your load by automatically creating event forms for reporting to local/state public health agencies or to national regulatory agencies like NHSN.

Clinical surveillance technology for infection prevention empowers your team with technology to respond in real-time to prevent the spread of measles. An integrated approach along with real-time information sharing that keeps all stakeholders up-to-date on risks and prevention strategies is critical for outbreak containment, and for the general safety of all patients, visitors, and staff.

Infection Prevention Clinical Program Manager
Mackenzie Weise is a trained Epidemiologist with over 12 years of experience in the areas of infectious diseases, data analytics and health informatics.

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