Understanding the current state of infection prevention to prevent Clostridium difficile infection: a human factors and systems engineering approach

Am J Infect Control. 2015 Mar 1;43(3):241-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ajic.2014.11.026.


Background: Achieving and sustaining high levels of health care worker (HCW) compliance with contact isolation precautions is challenging. The aim of this study was to determine HCW work system barriers to and facilitators of adherence to contact isolation for patients with suspected or confirmed Clostridium difficile infection (CDI) using a human factors and systems engineering approach.

Methods: This prospective cohort study took place between September 2013 and November 2013 at a large academic medical center (hospital A) and an affiliated Veterans Administration hospital (hospital B). A human factors engineering (HFE) model for patient safety, the Systems Engineering Initiative for Patient Safety model, was used to guide work system analysis and direct observation data collection. There were 288 observations conducted. HCWs and visitors were assessed for compliance with all components of contact isolation precautions (hand hygiene, gowning, and gloving) before and after patient contact. Time required to complete contact isolation precautions was measured, and adequacy of contact isolation supplies was assessed.

Results: Full compliance with contact isolation precautions was low at both hospitals A (7%) and B (22%). Lack of appropriate hand hygiene prior to room entry (compliance for hospital A: 18%; compliance for hospital B: 29%) was the most common reason for lack of full compliance. More time was required for full compliance compared with compliance with no components of contact isolation precautions before patient room entry, inside patient room, and after patient room exit (59.9 vs 3.2 seconds, P < .001; 507.3 vs 149.7 seconds, P = .006; 15.2 vs 1.3 seconds, P < .001, respectively). Compliance was lower when contact isolation supplies were inadequate (4% vs 16%, P = .005).

Conclusions: Adherence to contact isolation precautions for CDI is a complex, time-consuming process. HFE analysis indicates that multiple work system components serve as barriers and facilitators to full compliance with contact isolation precautions and should be addressed further to prevent CDI.

Keywords: Clostridium difficile; Contact precautions; Human factors; Infection control; Systems engineering.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Academic Medical Centers
  • Clostridioides difficile / isolation & purification*
  • Clostridium Infections / microbiology
  • Clostridium Infections / prevention & control*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross Infection / microbiology
  • Cross Infection / prevention & control*
  • Diarrhea / microbiology
  • Diarrhea / prevention & control*
  • Guideline Adherence
  • Hospitals, Veterans
  • Humans
  • Infection Control / methods*
  • Patient Safety*
  • Prospective Studies