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Patient Infection Rates Controlled by Unique Program at Outpatient Cancer Clinic
Date:3/17/2009

SEATTLE, March 17 /PRNewswire/ -- Cancer treatment leaves patients with weakened immune systems. So it would seem obvious that an outpatient cancer clinic would be a prime breeding ground for infections because of the constantly revolving door of patients, visitors and staff, all of whom could be exposed to bacteria and viruses at home or in the community. After all, infections are among the most common causes of illness and death among cancer patients.

However, an aggressive infection control program at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance that mixes common sense measures with medical informatics has drastically reduced the number and rate of infection-caused illness since its inception three years ago.

"Our rates of infection appear to be several fold lower than those seen at comparable institutions," said Corey Casper, M.D., M.P.H., medical director of the infection control program.

Consider what's happened in three years, according to Casper:

  • Mortality linked to respiratory viruses such as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) has fallen 20 fold due to a novel program that screens every person entering the building in the fall and winter for infections.
  • Rates of infection by so-called "superbugs" that are resistant to multiple broad-spectrum antibiotics such as MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) are "negligible."
  • Staff compliance with vaccinations has more than doubled and hand-washing before and after a provider has seen a patient is at 97 percent.

The SCCA's program is the only one of its kind devoted to outpatient care of any cancer center in the world, according to Casper. Lessons learned here are important ones because the majority of cancer care is provided in an outpatient setting. Outpatient cancer care poses more challenges when it comes to protecting patient health because the env
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SOURCE Seattle Cancer Care Alliance
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