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3M, hospital experts team up to fight infections

  • Article by: SUSAN FEYDER and DEE DePASS
  • Star Tribune staff writers
  • January 9, 2012 - 8:48 PM

3M Co. has partnered with prevention specialists from across the country to educate hospital personnel on ways to keep patients safe from infection, the company announced Monday.

The initiative resulted in an industrywide report Monday and is expected to improve surgical patient safety and reduce hospital infection rates.

The study, titled "Educate, Empower, Engage: A Collaborative Interdisciplinary Call-to-Action for Reducing Surgical Site Infections," notes that about 500,000 surgical site infections occur each year, a rate that equals 22 percent of total health care-associated infections. Those infections add 3.7 million days of hospitalization each year and cost $1.6 billion in extra expense.

"This is a serious threat to patient safety and a significant expense to the facility," said Linda Groah, executive director of the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN).

She noted that if a surgical site infection occurs that results in a readmission, the hospital won't be reimbursed. AORN was among several participants in 3M's effort.

Infection prevention plays a key role among products in the company's health care segment, which in 2010 posted sales of about $4.5 billion. One of 3M's largest recent acquisitions was its $810 million purchase in 2010 of Arizant Inc., an Eden Prairie company that makes blankets designed to prevent hypothermia, and thereby reduce infections in surgical patients.

Last year, 3M introduced a medical tape that reduced infections because it can be removed and replaced without stripping off skin cells. The new product is the latest in a series of innovations in medical tape for 3M that go back 50 years, including the first transparent medical tape that allows caregivers to see infection sites. 3M also was the first company to add antimicrobial agents to medical tapes to inhibit bacterial growth.

Debra Rectenwald, president of 3M's infection prevention division, said the key to reducing infections resides within the health care workplace culture.

"These include leadership, teamwork and collaboration, and the use of process tools to identify barriers and strategies for positive change," she said.

The report found that only 43 percent of surgical staffs receive report cards on hospital surgical site infections. Process improvements were a challenge at 31 percent of facilities surveyed.

3M said the summit is a collaborative effort supported by an educational grant from the Maplewood-based company and its partners, which include Rochester Medical Corp., a Stewartville maker of silicon catheters; Sage Products Inc. a maker of disposable health care products with headquarters in the Chicago suburb of Cary, Ill., and Belimed, a Swiss maker of cleaning and sterilization products. Several professional organizations also participated, including AORN, the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology and the International Association of Healthcare Central Service Material Management.

ddepass@startribune.com • 612-673-7725 sfeyder@startribune.com • 612-673-1723

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