Recommended practices for surveillance. Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, Inc. Surveillance Initiative working Group

Am J Infect Control. 1998 Jun;26(3):277-88. doi: 10.1016/s0196-6553(98)80013-8.


Demonstration of quality health care includes documentation of outcomes of care. Surveillance is a comprehensive method of measuring outcomes and related processes of care, analyzing the data, and providing information to members of the health care team to assist in improving those outcomes. Surveillance is an essential component of effective clinical programs designed to reduce the frequency of adverse events such as infection or injury. Although there is no single or "right" method of surveillance design or implementation, sound epidemiologic principles must form the foundation of effective systems and must be understood by key participants in the surveillance program and supported by senior management. Teamwork and collaboration across the health care spectrum are important for the development of surveillance plans. Each health care organization must tailor its surveillance systems to maximize resources by focusing on population characteristics, outcome priorities, and organizational objectives. To ensure quality of surveillance, the following elements must be incorporated: A written plan should serve as the foundation of any surveillance program. The plan should outline important objectives and elements of the surveillance process so that resources can be targeted appropriately. Thoroughness or intensity of surveillance for an area of interest must be maintained at the same level over time. Fluctuations of a surveillance rate have no meaning unless the same level of data collection is maintained. External rate comparisons are meaningless unless the systems used have comparable intensity. All the elements of surveillance should be used with consistency over time. This includes application of surveillance definitions and rate calculation methods. Personnel resources need to be appropriate for the type of surveillance being performed. This includes trained professionals who understand epidemiology and who have access to continuing professional education opportunities. Other resources essential to surveillance include computer support, information and technology services, clerical services, and administrative understanding and support to maintain a quality program. As a means of quality control and to ensure accuracy, the data and process of surveillance should undergo periodic evaluation and validation. This document is intended to assist professionals who plan and conduct surveillance programs as well as those who assure that there is appropriate organizational support to accomplish appropriate surveillance. While design of surveillance systems must be unique for each organization, incorporation of these seven core Recommended Practices for Surveillance provides a scientific framework to approach surveillance programs.

Publication types

  • Guideline
  • Practice Guideline

MeSH terms

  • Cross Infection / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Infection Control / standards*
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care* / organization & administration
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care* / standards