AHA recommends that FCC increase investment in rural telehealth program

The American Hospital Association submitted comments to the Federal Communications Commission encouraging it to increase the commission’s Healthcare Connect Fund (HCF)­ as part of its Rural Health Care Program. The HCF was designed to expand access to broadband services among health care organizations, especially those in rural areas, and to encourage the formation of state and regional broadband networks linking health care providers. It provides greater opportunities for telehealth programs to close the gap in accessible and timely care for rural patients.

Ashley Thompson, AHA senior vice president of public policy analysis and development, wrote to the FCC, stating, “With modest changes to the HCF, the FCC can incent greater participation and further expansion of broadband, closing this aspect of the digital divide, and improving the lives of rural Americans.”

Hospital Microbiome Project releases findings of yearlong study

Researchers at The University of Chicago published findings of a yearlong microbiome analysis conducted at The University of Chicago Medicine hospital.

The study, “Bacterial colonization and succession in a newly opened hospital,” began two months before The University of Chicago Medicine opened its new hospital in February 2013. It continued for 10 more months, during which researchers collected more than 10,000 samples. They were able to detect microbial DNA in 6,523 of the samples.

The study’s goal was to develop a community-level understanding of how microorganisms colonize and move through a hospital environment. The researchers did so by characterizing the bacterial dynamics among hospital surfaces, patients and staff.

The researchers found that bacteria identified in patient rooms, particularly on bedrails, consistently resembled the skin microbiota of the patient occupying the room, and that bacterial communities on patients and room surfaces became increasingly similar over the course of a patient’s stay. The microbial signatures of patients began to influence the room community structure over time. 

Results of the study are published in Science Translational Medicine.

Joint Commission says improper medical device sterilization is a growing problem

The Joint Commission addressed growing concerns over improperly sterilized medical devices in its May Quick Safety online newsletter.

Standard IC.02.02.01 requires organizations to reduce the risk of infections associated with medical equipment devices and supplies. The Joint Commission states that the problem is frequently scored as noncompliant during surveys, and since 2009, the noncompliance rate for the standard has continued to grow.

In fact, the organization notes that from 2013 to 2016, 74 percent of immediate threat to life declarations were directly related to improperly sterilized or high-level disinfection equipment.

In the Quick Safety issue, the Joint Commission listed common reasons for noncompliance and safety actions accredited organizations should consider.

CDC investigates multidrug-resistant fungus in health care facilities

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated findings of its investigation into cases of multidrug-resistant-fungus Candida auris that occurred among health care facilities in a few states in 2016. The CDC states that as of May 12, a total of 77 U.S. clinical cases of C. auris had been reported to the CDC from seven states: New York (53), New Jersey (16), Illinois (four), Indiana (one), Maryland (one), Massachusetts (one) and Oklahoma (one).

Nearly all patients had multiple underlying medical conditions and extensive health care facility exposure. CDC has worked with state and local partners to develop and share infection control recommendations to help curb the spread, including:

  • Use of standard precautions and contact precautions.
  • Housing the patient in a private room.
  • Daily and terminal cleaning of a patient’s room with a disinfectant active against Clostridium difficile spores.
  • Notification of receiving health care facilities when a patient with C. auris colonization or infection is transferred. 

ECRI guidance on prevention ransomware on medical devices

ECRI Institute released a new guidance article, "Ransomware Attacks: How to Protect Your Medical Device Systems." The report provides recommendations for adapting general cybersecurity principles to the particular requirements of medical device systems, including a list of immediate do's and don'ts for responding quickly to emerging threats. The goal is to help facilities protect their devices and information in a timely manner.