Reducing Ventilator Associated Pneumonia rates

Originally posted 3-6-2011:
One of the more common forms of Healthcare Associated Infection (HAI) that a patient can acquire is pneumonia while being supported by a ventilator. Ventilator Associated Pneumonia's (VAP) are a significant portion of the many of thousands of deaths that occur each year due to HAI. There has been some great news in the battle to reduce the VAP rates.

Last month, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) released a brief stating that some Michigan ICUs were able to recude VAP rates by 70%. Not only were these rates reduced, but these lower rates were sustained for a two and a half year period.  These hospitals were part of the Keystone Project that also significantly reduced the rate of Central Line Associated Blood Stream Infections.

According to the article, one of the main reasons for the success was a quality improvement initiative, known as the Comprehensive Unit-based Safety Program (CUSP).  CUSP is a strategic framework to improve safety that "integrates communication, teamwork, and leadership".  The five steps of the program are:
Step 1 – Staff are educated on the science of safety training.
Step 2 -- Staff use a written survey to help identify defects based on unit reports, liability claims, and sentinel events.
Step 3 – A senior hospital executive partners with the unit to improve communications and educate leadership.
Step 4 -- Staff learn from unit defects.
Step 5 – Staff use tools to improve teamwork, communication, and other systems of work.  

No wonder the CUSP framework is showing successful results. It takes a systemic look at healthcare and enables the ability to create solutions to fix the system. It provides education. It allows for open communication from the front end worker to the top levels of the hospital. It enables the workers to find solutions to their workflow. All of that promotes a healthy, open organization with the patient's safety taking center stage.

I think the results from the AHRQ brief are really exciting. But what is even better is that the CUSP framework is starting to spread to all 50 states.  This shows that the healthcare community is learning from each other to reduce HAIs and promote better patient outcomes.  I hope this is just the start of a positive trend in healthcare.