So how do you meet your health care clients half-way? By being proactive and taking ownership of infection control protocols for construction, renovation and repair projects in their facilities.
Here a just a few reasons why providing your own infection control plan will benefit not only your client, but you as a contractor.
You may be asking: why is there suddenly this huge panic surrounding hospital-acquired infections (HAI’s)? From stories on antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections to legionella outbreaks and beyond, reporting and investigations of HAIs is way up.
This is due, in part, to recent changes in Medicare and Medicaid requirements that require hospitals to report infections. But it’s also due to the increase in HAI lawsuits that are cracking down on hospital—and contractor—liability when it comes to infections.
There’s no way around it: HAIs are going to occur around your projects. That mans you have to have data to protect yourself from frivolous allegations of fault and costly face-saving settlements if a patient does develop a construction-related infection.
To Get Ahead
It’s possible that you’ve been in this situation before: everything was going fine until one of your workers borrowed the drop cord off of your air scrubber, causing you to lose negative pressure in your work area. Now your containment areas are compromised and construction dust has made its way into the hospital HVAC system.
Sounds like a recipe for serious delays, doesn’t it? Not only will you have to spend time re-sealing your containment areas, but you also may have to help the hospital investigate the spread of contaminated dust, spend time reworking the infection control plan, and maybe even stop work until the concerns of patient families have been addressed.
Not only do you risk getting behind schedule, but you’ll probably have to deal with stricter infection control procedures than before—which may or may not be carried out at your own expense.
Or there’s another option: providing your own plan for implementing infection control measures with your schedule and your budget in mind. By providing your own plan, you’ll be able to think through how much time daily Interim Infection Control Measures (IICM’s) will take and walk your guys through the Measures you’ve put in place. And you’ll be able to create a contingency plan for how you’ll get back on track in the case that something does go wrong.
So You Can Be Your Own Boss
One overlooked issue when it comes to owner-provided Infection Control in Construction is that the dynamic often becomes one of policing contractor actions. With owner-provided IICM’s, hospital staff is in a position of power to supervise and enforce contractor actions.
This means that as a contractor, you’ll be in a reactive position when it comes to fulfilling the owner’s IICM’s. This could mean lots of time and money spent on unrelated tasks to either meet infection control demands or cover your tracks—instead of actually doing the work you were hired for.
Because It’s Expected
With the high correlation between construction and hospital-acquired infections, more and more health care facilities have started to include infection control in their project scopes—and they expect you to know what you’re talking about. Just like any job interview, when you go in to talk to your client you need to be prepared to answer health care owners’ questions from every angle. It’s likely that infection control will be an area of serious interest, and that they’ll expect you to have ideas for the specific project you’re interviewing for.
Documentation is an integral part of any construction project. But hospitals have to be even more meticulous in documenting of their projects so they can defend themselves if if they’re slapped with an infection control (or other) lawsuit. Basically, when it comes to providing proof, if it is not in writing, then it never happened.
Infection control documentation will require reporting of nearly every action taken by your employees, and hospital staff will keep a close eye on your guys to make sure they don’t slip up.
Unfortunately, any mistakes will stand out clearly in the mind of the health care client. When it comes time to write up the report it’ll be easy for them to forget everything you did right and write a report describing every detail of what went wrong during the project.
But if you provide your own IICM’s, you’ll get to have a hand in what gets reported. The report will no longer be a laundry list of your mistakes, but a complete overview that includes the corrective actions you took.
Also, with the responsibility of reporting on their shoulders, your guys will likely pay better attention to following the IICM’s and be ready to ownership for their actions on the job site.
To Score Points on the Offense
Whether it’s an HAI lawsuit or an accident on the job, when something goes wrong it’s easy to start pointing fingers. If facility owners have provided the IICM’s, they’ll assume that they’ve done their part to protect patients and limit liability. That means you’ll be on the defense then they start pointing fingers at you.
Now let’s turn this scenario around. If you’ve provided your own IICM’s, you’ll be able to demonstrate the steps you took to prevent the incident in question. But even more importantly: you’ll be in a proactive position to identify and rectify any non-compliance issues before they become issues in the first place.
Plus there’s a good chance that by providing your own IICM’s, you’ll score points with your client as trusted offensive player with a data-driven strategy.
To Protect Your Reputation
If a serious infection control problem occurs on your watch, other health care clients in your area will likely find out. While we’d hope that one issue on the job wouldn’t keep you from getting a job, it’s likely that that negative experience will leave a stain on your reputation for a while.
To Stay On Budget
Health care facilities may have already conducted an Infection Control Risk Assessment (ICRA’s) and have infection control protocols in place—but additional measures will be necessary for any construction, renovation or repair project. Any responsible health care facility will come to the table with an extensive and detailed wish list of infection control measures. (We’re thinking of those overly risk-averse ICP nurses who—with their hearts in the right place—always insist on costly and unnecessary measures.)
If the owner creates IICM’s for the project, you’ll be at the mercy of what their Infection Control Practitioners (ICP’s) have outlined as necessary—and it’ll probably require a serious commitment of time and money.
While you’d love to make your clients dreams come true, you probably just won’t have the money in your project budget. But if you work with a consultant to create IICM’s for the project, they can help you figure out where to focus your budget for maximum effectiveness. (If more is really necessary, you can talk to the hospital about what they can provide.)
To Win More Jobs
If you don’t do it, your competitors will. And it’s likely that they’ll get the project award as a result. It’s as simple as that.
So, you’re not an Infection Control Expert. Do you really have to learn this stuff?
A lot of contractors I know only think about infection control as a bunch of pain-in-the-neck rules that left a bad taste in their mouth on a recent project. I don’t blame you—infection control isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But if you want to work with healthcare clients, you’ve got to have at least some general knowledge. So where do you go from here?
Well there are a couple of things you can do:
- Get some general training in infection control. While this won’t make you an expert, it’ll allow you to speak infection control language when talking with owners and make it easier for you to figure out when something has gone wrong on site. And most importantly, it’ll make sure you know when it’s time to ask for help—and who you can turn to. Infection Control situations escalate quickly, so having a reliable Infection Control Specialist on call can save you and your clients lots of headaches and money when a problem needs fixing. We’d recommend you check out the Construction Infection Control Training Institute http://www.cicti.org/. They have some great training options for contractors that will kick start your education in infection control.
- Get help from an Infection Control Specialist. These consultants can help you develop manageable infection control plans for your projects that will keep you on schedule and on budget. Better yet, as you work with them on various projects, they’ll get a better idea of what your infection control capabilities are, what your budget’s like, and how they can help you fill the gap. Plus, they’ll have worked with healthcare clients so they can foresee potential infection control pitfalls from an owner perspective that you might not be so privy to.
One of the best ways to build relationships with your health care clients is to show them that you understand their concerns about infection control and that you’re prepared to help them manage risks associated with health care construction, renovation and repair projects. One of the best ways to do this is to supply your own IICM’s for your projects in their facilities. If you have any questions about why you should provide IICM’s or how to go about it, please reach out to Dan Taylor, President, at email@example.com or 402.981.1000.
Here at AMI Environmental, we regularly provide infection control consulting for both contractor-engineering firms and owners. With 30 years of healthcare experience, we’re well versed in the needs of both large and small healthcare facilities, and the vendors who keep their facilities running smoothly.
As president and chief executive officer, Dan focuses on the overall direction of the firm, strategic alliances, and business development, while upholding his commitment to clients to ensure their projects’ success. He remains involved in the field, applying his 30 years of experience to resolve the most complicated and high risk environmental hygiene issues encountered in healthcare facilities.