BACKGROUND: While research has demonstrated the importance of a clean health care environment, there is a lack of research on the role portable medical equipment (PME) play in the transmission cycle of healthcare-acquired infections (HAIs). This study investigated the patterns and sequence of contact events among health care workers, patients, surfaces, and medical equipment in a hospital environment.
METHODS: Research staff observed patient care events over six different 24 h periods on six different hospital units. Each encounter was recorded as a sequence of events and analyzed using sequence analysis and visually represented by network plots. In addition, a point prevalence microbial sample was taken from the computer on wheels (COW).
RESULTS: The most touched items during patient care was the individual patient (850), bedrail (375), bed-surface (302), and bed side Table (223). Three of the top ten most common subsequences included touching PME and the patient: computer on wheels ➔ patient (62 of 274 total sequences, 22.6%, contained this sequence), patient ➔ COW (20.4%), and patient ➔ IV pump (16.1%). The network plots revealed large interconnectedness among objects in the room, the patient, PME, and the healthcare worker.
CONCLUSIONS: Our results demonstrated that PME such as COW and IV pump were two of the most highly-touched items during patient care. Even with proper hand sanitization and personal protective equipment, this sequence analysis reveals the potential for contamination from the patient and environment, to a vector such as portable medical equipment, and ultimately to another patient in the hospital.