I pity the fools that don’t use the tools…

By Steve MacArthur, Hospital Safety Consultant

A fairly brief missive this week (or at least that’s my intent – we’ll see what happens once I get a-rolling…), primarily to alert you to a couple of newly available/accessible resources, both of which could have a fairly positive impact on your future planning activities and one that will probably soon become something of a gold standard as it rolls out into the world.

First up, we have an update of a tool that feels like it’s been around forever—the copyright is dated 2002, so, in this case, the classic ICRA we all know and love is almost old enough to drink pretty much everywhere, not that I would encourage you to assess risk and consume potent potables. At any rate, the Infection Control Risk Assessment has a long and storied history in the industry’s ongoing efforts to provide a safe environment during what is arguably the most hazardous of conditions in a hospital setting: Renovation and/or construction activities in spaces adjacent to spaces being used for patient care.

Ultimately, the goal of the process is to isolate as much as possible the “products of construction” (noise, vibration, dust, etc.) from the spaces occupied by patient care units. And while the old truism that “you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs” is always in the mix, advances in construction technology have greatly improved the means at our disposal for drawings those lines between clean and less clean (so to speak).

So, this past week saw the American Society for Health Care Engineering (ASHE) unveil an updated Infection Control Risk Assessment (inevitably entitled ICRA 2.0—https://www.ashe.org/ashe-publishes-updated-infection-control-risk-assessment). The linked article includes further links to the tool itself (which is available to members of ASHE as well as to non-members) and an e-learning course to help apply the new tool to the healthcare environment.

At first glance, the tool has the classic matrix design with which many have become intimately familiar, but you’ll notice some subtle differences that, I think, will allow you to fine-tune your protective measures to a greater degree than in the past. For example, the original matrix had only 4 classes of protective measures; the updated version has 5 classes—I think that’s going to help guide those “in between” cases (is it a Class 2 or a Class 3—which way do we go with this).

Also, the assessment tool provides a means of collecting all those disparate risks into a single platform. As with anything different, it’s going to take some spins around the block to get comfortable with the use of the assessment tool, but I think this one’s going to be very appealing to regulatory surveyors, so you might want to become your own expert before they darken your door.

And speaking of risk areas in the physical environment, the management of the behavioral health environment continues to be a hot button. Fortunately, The Center For Health Design (https://www.healthdesign.org/) has assembled a Behavioral & Mental Health Design Toolbox that will likely be a useful resource in navigating the courses involved with managing this most vulnerable (and variable) patient population.

Once again, access is not restricted due to the underwriting of sponsors, but I think you’ll find that poking around a little bit should allow you to gain some valuable insights and/or validation of your organization’s experience. You can find the toolbox here: https://www.healthdesign.org/behavioral-mental-health-toolbox .

About the Author: Steve MacArthur is a safety consultant with The Greeley Company in Danvers, Mass. He brings more than 30 years of healthcare management and consulting experience to his work with hospitals, physician offices, and ambulatory care facilities across the country. He is the author of HCPro's Hospital Safety Director's Handbook and is contributing editor for Healthcare Safety Leader. Contact Steve at stevemacsafetyspace@gmail.com.