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Study: Inconsistent policies thwart UTI prevention efforts

August 2, 2016
by Pamela Tabar, Editor-in-Chief
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Despite the high visibility of the problem of urinary tract infections (UTIs) among skilled nursing residents, most nursing homes don’t seem to have consistent policies to prevent them, according to research presented at the 43rd Annual Conference of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control (APIC) in Charlotte, N.C.

Researchers from the Center for Health Policy at Columbia University School of Nursing reviewed the policies and infection data at 955 nursing homes with a total of 88,135 residents to see which UTI-reduction policies were being implemented and what effects they had on reducing UTIs. The researchers found little consistency among facilities in terms of procedures, and found surprising evidence that catheters aren’t the primary cause of UTIs in nursing homes.

"UTIs are the most common infection in nursing homes, and we wanted to determine what policies and procedures would help these facilities lower UTI prevalence," said Senior Project Director Carolyn Herzig, PhD, MS, project director, Columbia University School of Nursing, in a press release. "What was particularly interesting about this study was that there were more UTIs that were not associated with catheterization than those that were. This means that a larger focus should be placed on identifying practices to prevent UTIs regardless of catheter placement."

What else mattered in the mission of reducing UTIs? The team identified three key policies that worked to lower infection rates:

  • The use of a portable bladder ultrasound scanner to measure urine voiding
  • A consistent procedure for cleaning leg-strap-based urine collection bags
  • The presence of a trained infection preventionist on staff

The study was one of six Blue Ribbon Abstract award winners at the APIC conference.

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