Hospitals are subject to clear standards and procedures for infection control, but germs don’t care whether they live in an operating room or a medical office exam room.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) do. It recently issued “Guide to Infection Prevention for Outpatient Settings: Minimum Expectations for Safe Care” for all manner of ambulatory care centers, including doctors’ offices and outpatient testing and lab facilities.
Among the most basic practices such facilities should follow are:
- Develop and maintain infection prevention and occupational health programs.
- Assure sufficient and appropriate supplies necessary for adherence to standard precautions (hand hygiene products, personal protective equipment, injection equipment).
- Assure at least one individual with training in infection prevention is employed by or regularly available to the facility.
- Develop written infection prevention policies and procedures appropriate for the services provided by the facility and based upon evidence-based guidelines, regulations, or standards.
Patients generally are not aware, nor should they be, if their health-care providers have undergone the necessary training to adhere to these guidelines. But they’re common sense, and if anything seems amiss when you visit your doctor–say, the nurse doesn’t wash her hands before offering a thermometer–ask what measures are being taken to protect you from someone else’s germs.