The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued new
guidelines aimed at preventing infections in outpatient clinics. According to the
CDC, the transition of healthcare delivery from acute care hospitals to
outpatient settings, along with ongoing outbreaks of infection, have demonstrated
the need for greater understanding and implementation of basic infection
As noted by the CDC, the safety of outpatient clinics is becoming increasingly
important as their role in health care expands. More than three-quarters
of all operations in the United States are performed on an outpatient
basis. In addition, vulnerable patient populations rely on frequent and
intensive use of outpatient care to maintain or improve their health.
For example, each year more than one million cancer patients receive outpatient
chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or both.
Therefore, it is critical that all of this care be provided under conditions
that minimize or eliminate risks of healthcare-associated infections (HAI).
Although patients are treated more frequently in outpatient clinics, infection
prevention and surveillance activities do not yet match those of hospital
facilities. According to the CDC, it has logged numerous outbreak reports
regarding the transmission of bacteria, mycobacteria, viruses, and parasites.
In many instances, outbreaks and other adverse events were associated with
breakdowns in basic infection prevention procedures (e.g., reuse of syringes
leading to transmission of bloodborne viruses).
To address these problems, the new guidelines adopt those now used in most
hospitals. The guide includes a checklist meant to prevent infections
from injections, poor hygiene, and other causes. Among other recommendations,
the CDC suggests that all outpatient practices have at least one individual
with specific training in infection control on staff or regularly available.
To ensure that you are not at risk for infection when being treated at
an outpatient clinic, experts recommend asking questions regarding the
facility’s infection prevention procedures. Specifically, it is
important to find out what the clinic’s infection rate is and to
ask what measures are taken to prevent infections.