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How Active Resisters and Organizational Constipators Affect Health Care–Acquired Infection Prevention Efforts

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Background: As of October 2008, hospitals in the United States no longer receive Medicare reimbursement for certain types of health care–associated infection (HAI), thereby heightening the need for effective prevention efforts. The mere existence of evidence-based practices, however, does not always result in the use of such practices because of the complexities inherent in translating evidence into practice. A qualitative study was conducted to determine the barriers to implementing evidence-based practices to prevent HAI, with a specific focus on the role played by hospital personnel.

Methods: In-depth phone and in-person interviews were conducted between October 2006 and September 2007 with 86 participants (31 physicians) including chief executive officers, chiefs of staff, hospital epidemiologists, infection control professionals, intensive care unit directors, nurse managers, and frontline physicians and nurses, in 14 hospitals.

Findings: Active resistance to evidence-based practice change was pervasive. Successful efforts to overcome active resisters included benchmarking infection rates, identifying effective champions, and participating in collaborative efforts. Organizational constipators—mid- to high-level executives who act as insidious barriers to change—also increased the difficulty in implementing change. Recognizing the presence of constipators is often the first step in addressing the problem but can be followed with including the organizational constipator early in group discussions to improve communication and obtain buy-in, working around the individual, and terminating the constipator's employment.

Discussion: Two types of personnel—active resistors and organizational constipators—impeded HAI prevention activities, and several approaches were used to overcome those barriers. Hospital administrators and patient safety leaders can use the findings to more successfully structure activities that prevent HAI in their hospitals.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2009

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  • Published monthly, The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety is a peer-reviewed publication dedicated to providing health professionals with the information they need to promote the quality and safety of health care. The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety invites original manuscripts on the development, adaptation, and/or implementation of innovative thinking, strategies, and practices in improving quality and safety in health care. Case studies, program or project reports, reports of new methodologies or new applications of methodologies, research studies on the effectiveness of improvement interventions, and commentaries on issues and practices are all considered.

    David W. Baker, MD, MPH, FACP, executive vice president for the Division of Healthcare Quality Evaluation at The Joint Commission, is the inaugural editor-in-chief of The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety.

    Also known as Joint Commission Journal on Quality Improvement and Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Safety
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