Tips for Infection Control in Physician Offices

Recently, there has been increased attention on the importance of infection control practices in hospitals to optimize patient safety. But these practices also need to be applied across the continuum of care—including at physician offices.

“In any setting, there’s a risk of infection,” says Gina Pugliese, RN, MS, vice president emeritus of the Premier Safety Institute. “But, typically, there’s not as much quality control in physician offices as it relates to prevention and control practices.”

In its recently updated report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) along with the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee recommend the following core practices for preventing and controlling infection in your office.

Hand hygiene. Make sure that supplies are easy to access and that staff moving from examination rooms to other areas are washing their hands frequently.

Environmental surfaces and medical equipment. Regularly clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and promptly clean and decontaminate blood spills or other potentially infectious material. Make sure to regularly disinfect and sterilize reusable medical equipment.

Injection and medication safety. Among the most significant challenges of preventing and controlling infection are unsafe injection practices, Pugliese says. “The lack of knowledge and oversight contributes to the risk of outbreak in many small, nonacute settings like physician offices.” Avoid the following scenarios:

  • Using a single syringe to administer medication to more than 1 patient
  • Reinserting a used needle into a medication vial and then reusing the vial for another patient
  • Preparing medications near contaminated supplies or equipment

Minimizing potential exposure. Use proper respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette to reduce the risk of spreading respiratory infection. Provide tissues, masks, and hand hygiene supplies to staff and patients, and display instructional signs or handouts. When feasible, move your patients with symptoms of respiratory infection out of waiting areas and into examination rooms as soon as possible.

Occupational health. Make sure your staff are vaccinated against preventable diseases, says Pugliese. In addition, the CDC recommends implementing sick leave policies that encourage staff to stay home when they have symptoms of acute infectious illnesses. Of note, the risk of spreading infection increases as patients move among various health care settings. “Doctors need to know who their patients are and where they’re coming from,” Pugliese says.