While the focus of healthcare acquired infections (HAIs) has long been on its impacts to patient safety and health system cost, the onset of the novel coronavirus has been a game changer. Treatment and care management evolve as teams learn about COVID-19, as do infection prevention protocols that now seek to protect not just patients but healthcare staff, their families and communities.
Healthcare linen, a key element of any health system’s infection prevention program, is the most touched medical supply item before it gets into the patient room, while it is in the patient room and after it leaves the patient room. The potential for healthcare linen to carry pathogens throughout the health facility and – with medical attire – into the community and individual households when worn by professional staff, is high when certain infection prevention best practices and protocols are not followed.
If you are a healthcare provider looking to lower the spread of COVID-19 you now have a tool – the Linen Risk Assessment from Faultless – to help you learn where your facility may be at risk with your medical linens as a source of exposure.
Offered to any medical provider in the Kansas City and St Louis regions interested in improving their infection prevention plan, the Linen Risk Assessment offers a comprehensive analysis of a healthcare provider’s linen program. It is designed to help a provider understand if its linen is compliant with infection prevention recommendations and regulations. Upon completing the assessment, the facility will get a personalized report highlighting their linen’s infection prevention compliance, potential risks and how the facility can improve on those risks.
The coronavirus joins other infectious agents in the pool of HAIs with which healthcare providers contend. While precautions are in place, it is still not certain all the ways in which the coronavirus is spread. Patients, healthcare staff, vendors, visitors and others can be asymptomatic carriers, and in coming into contact with or wearing medical linens, add to the risk of exposure.
Considered a fomite, linen is capable of carrying infectious agents such as bacteria, viruses or fungi, and be involved in their transmission. COVID-19 can live on medical linen for up to 12 hours, according to TRSA. To reduce risk, it is important to launder medical linens at a standard that reduces pathogens to an acceptable level which does not pose a threat to the health of patients and others.
Hygienically Clean Laundry is crucial to minimize the spread of pathogens according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN) and the Healthcare Laundry Accreditation Council (HLAC). Faultless Healthcare Linen has this accreditation and processes 1.5 million pieces of medical laundry to this standard every week. To maintain the accreditation, Faultless laundry samples are regularly taken to an outside lab for biological testing and third-party validation.
Studies have proven that this standard is not achieved in home laundering. In fact, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations prohibit home laundering of personal protective apparel such as medical lab coats, scrubs and isolation gowns. In addition, the CDC states that dry cleaning also is ineffective in reducing bacteria and viruses on linens and that microorganisms can survive home laundering.
If a healthcare provider is unsure whether its linen program is compliant, The Joint Commission recommends conducting a risk assessment to identify actual and potential risks. Its recommended risk assessment, according to the organization’s website, includes the sequencing of events, actual and potential risks, failure or points of vulnerability as well as highlighting areas for improvement.
There is no single, specific risk assessment mandated by The Joint Commission but a proactive risk assessment that meets the needs of an organization is recommended. The new Linen Risk Assessment from Faultless Healthcare Linen, an ImageFIRST company, is designed to do just that.
Faultless provides its customers fully managed linen and apparel laundry programs with comprehensive infection prevention laundering processes that meet or exceed OSHA, CDC and HLAC requirements. They comply with The Joint Commission requirements, which also state that, “… health facility leaders must oversee contracted services to make sure they are provided safely and effectively.”