Patient privacy—in the room and at the bedside—is an important element of care. Separation from the sights and sounds of the hospital environment can create a safer and more private environment for patients in treatment or recovery.
With all its benefits, however, patient privacy tends to fall short when it comes to infection prevention and control standards. The typical cleaning, sanitation, or disinfection processes designed to reduce infection risk in the hospital room tend to address equipment and most high-touch surfaces around the patient but often neglect the patient privacy surfaces.
According to a WHO global report on infection prevention and control, “out of every 100 patients in acute-care hospitals, seven patients in high-income countries and 15 patients in low- and middle-income countries will acquire at least one health care-associated infection (HAI) during their hospital stay.” When this rate of infection is coupled with the CDC’s reported costs of treating patients with HAIs, the need to address contamination risks around the patient becomes urgent.
Better alignment of patient privacy solutions with infection prevention guidelines will improve patient safety, satisfaction, and outcomes, as well as staff safety, efficiency, and ability to adapt to changing care requirements.
Let’s explore five essential questions that hospital teams should consider to achieve better alignment between patient privacy solutions and infection prevention initiatives.
Question 1: How is your department using patient privacy?
Most hospitals in the US employ the use of cloth curtains, disposable curtains, or fabric screens for patient privacy. They are commonly found in any private or multi-patient room; however, they may also be used for privacy in waiting areas, hallways, lactation rooms, or staff break rooms.
Consider who enters your department—patients, guests, nurses, facility staff—and how they are interacting with your privacy solution. Consider each step of the patient’s experience, from when they first check-in to when they are discharged, and where they may need privacy. Also, consider staff workflows as they move throughout your department, perform their tasks, and interact with patients.
Thinking critically about these things will help you better understand how your existing privacy solution is used, who touches it, and new opportunities to create a more private patient experience. It may also uncover areas where cleanliness and infection control need to be prioritized.
Question 2: What is your process for cleaning and replacing your privacy solution?
It is essential to have a straightforward process for cleaning your patient privacy solution to ensure that it is adequately sanitized. A privacy solution should be considered a high-touch surface because patients and staff are frequently handling it, therefore, it’s important to apply the same rules and protocols that are established for other clean surfaces elsewhere in the room.
There are several options for cleaning high-touch surfaces, including soap and water, sanitary wipes, bleach, and ultraviolet light. Unfortunately, cloth and disposable curtains usually cannot be cleaned by these methods and, therefore, often get neglected. In fact, a recent white paper developed by a curtain manufacturer states that cloth curtains should be laundered every six months, while disposable curtains should be replaced every three months.
Solid privacy screens offer an effective alternative to cloth privacy curtains. Silentia privacy screens, for example, are designed with specific touchpoints and surfaces that can be cleaned with any disinfectant typically used in the healthcare setting. This enables healthcare teams to clean them as frequently as any other high-touch surfaces, keeping the entire patient area clean.
When it comes to a patient privacy solution, it is important to choose a method that can be effectively and efficiently cleaned that is also safe for patients, staff, and the environment.
Question 3: How is your privacy solution impacting your budget?
When incorporating an infection control-friendly patient privacy solution, it is important to understand the long-term impact on your budget. Consider the total cost of ownership associated with using your current solution: laundering costs, disposal/incineration costs, new/replacement materials costs, labor costs, costs to displace a patient during room cleaning, and costs associated with adverse effects on patient recovery.
Hard surface privacy screens virtually eliminate these costs because they don’t need to be removed and laundered, they can be cleaned in the room with materials that are already being used to clean other surfaces. Silentia privacy screens are proven to last longer than 10 years and typically provide a return on the initial purchase investment in as little as two years.
In addition to reduced cleaning, operating and materials costs, Silentia screens reduce the risk of hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) and any associated costs that can significantly impact a budget. By carefully considering these factors, you can ensure that your patient privacy solution aligns with your infection prevention initiatives while maximizing your budget’s efficiency.
Question 4: How is your privacy solution impacting quality of care?
The patient privacy solution you choose significantly impacts the quality of patient care. As discussed previously, a clean and hygienic solution can reduce the risk of healthcare-associated infections. This is important because it helps ensure that patients receive care in a safe and comfortable environment, a main contributor to quality of care.
Another factor of quality of care is the consideration of how the patient perceives the care area. It should convey cleanliness, safety, comfort, aesthetics, and attention to detail to create a positive feeling toward the level of care being received.
Consider, too, your staff’s ability to deliver quality care in an efficient manner. A privacy solution should be functional, stable, durable, and easy to use to give staff the ability to deliver treatment quickly and effectively.
Improving infection prevention at a Texas hospital
A mother and baby unit in Houston, Texas, replaced hanging curtains with Silentia privacy screens to create a better environment for patients and their families.
Privacy screens offer a long-term privacy solution that is easy to keep clean and reduces contamination risks, improving the patient experience as well as operational efficiency.
By replacing privacy curtains with wall-mounted folding privacy screens, the department sees several benefits, including reduced staff presence in the room, reduced cloth surfaces around the patient that could harbor infectious bacteria, and a more aesthetically pleasing environment.
The functional design of the screens offers additional space-saving and safety benefits as they are attached to a previously unused portion of the wall and have a minimal no footprint.
Question 5: What is your long-term solution for patient privacy and infection control?
Historically, patient privacy products have not offered a long-term solution, designed to be discarded and replaced hundreds of times over. As hospitals move toward more sustainable solutions, the products they use must follow suite.
A long-term or future-proof solution is one product or system that adapts to ongoing and changing needs while consistently serving its purpose.
Qualities of a future-proof privacy solution:
- Easily adapts to changing infection prevention and control requirements
- Withstands daily use and maintains its quality over time
- Offers easy repairs or replacement parts
- Can be relocated and reconfigured as a department renovates or moves
- Offers long-term sustainability and resource efficiency
By thinking more critically about how aligning patient privacy and infection control can impact patient care, you can improve patient outcomes, better support your staff, improve safety, and reduce costs.
Silentia is committed to being a partner in patient privacy and infection prevention. To learn more about the Silentia screen system explore our virtual design tool, EasyScreenDesign, or contact us today for a free demonstration.
This article was written by Kayla Graves, Regional Sales Manager, Southern TX, at Silentia, Inc.