Using clinical surveillance software to support effective infection prevention and control for managing COVID-19
The speed, severity and scale of the COVID-19 pandemic challenged infection prevention and control (IPC) efforts at hospitals worldwide. Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in Dorchester had an established pandemic plan, which had been developed in response to the swine flu (H1N1) pandemic in 2009. However, the COVID-19 pandemic developed to a level that modern health care had not seen before and it remains the largest challenge for health care to date. This article outlines the experience of a rural district general hospital using digital solutions for infection prevention and control before and during the pandemic. The author will explore the experience of a hospital that implemented specialised clinical surveillance software, how it was applied to management and control of COVID-19 cases, and how the availability of that system allowed for continued focus on controlling other pathogens in the hospital environment, even at the height of the pandemic.
Manual infection surveillance is a labour-intensive process that can involve the infection prevention and control (IPC) team accessing multiple data sources and copying and pasting data into spreadsheets, attracting the risk of error. Automated infection detection using algorithms within the electronic medical record or via specialised add-on data-mining software has been shown to improve the quality of data and the use of staff resources (National Information Board and Department of Health, 2014; Barnes, 2017). Hospitals that adopt this technology are more likely to implement best practices to prevent healthcare-associated infections (Association for Professionals in Infection Control, 2010). The emergence of COVID-19 in early 2020 highlighted the need for efficient digital solutions in health care to support infection control.
Even before COVID-19, Public Health England (PHE) (now the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA)) recommended the exploitation of technological change in its infectious disease strategy, stating as one of its top priorities:
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