The intensive care unit (ICU) is the specialty with the highest prevalence of healthcare-associated infection (HCAI) in European hospitals and therefore a priority for surveillance of HCAI. Whereas surveillance is an essential part of an effective infection prevention and control (IPC) programme, all too often it consumes too much clinician and IPC team time, limiting the time available for quality improvement. The case for electronic surveillance is made in the literature from several countries on this basis. These studies indicate that electronic surveillance can improve validity, reduce time spent on surveillance, and provide opportunities for improvement in clinical decision-making and IPC action arising from surveillance. The Scottish ICU HAI surveillance system was established as part of an integrated audit and clinical care system. Investment in this technology infrastructure reduced the burden of data collection and has resulted in a focus on driving improvement in all Scottish ICUs. The experience in Scotland indicates that several critical components are necessary to optimize ICU HCAI surveillance, including: nationally agreed definitions and methods; national investment in information technology infrastructure to make it easier to follow clinical care pathways; leadership of surveillance by intensivists; piloting and validation to ensure confidence in the system; and strategic integration of national and local programmes. These elements have helped improve surveillance data locally, nationally, and at a European level, allowing clinical attention to be focused on the data rather than on the process of data collection.
- Hospital infection
- Intensive care unit