A cost-analysis of two approaches to infection control in a lung function laboratory
Side, EA and Harrington, G and Thien, E and Johns, DP and Walters, EH, A cost-analysis of two approaches to infection control in a lung function laboratory, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Medicine, 29 pp. 9-14. ISSN 0004-8291 (1999) [Refereed Article]
Background: The Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand (TSANZ) guidelines for infection control in respiratory laboratories are based on a 'Universal Precautions' approach to patient care. This requires that one-way breathing valves, flow sensors, and other items, be cleaned and disinfected between patient use. However, this is impractical in a busy laboratory. The recent introduction of disposable barrier filters may provide a practical solution to this problem, although most consider this approach to be an expensive option. Aim: To compare the cost of implementing the TSANZ infection control guidelines with the cost of using disposable barrier filters. Methods: Costs were based on the standard tests and equipment currently used in the lung function laboratory at The Alfred Hospital. We have assumed that a barrier filter offers the same degree of protection against cross-infection between patients as the TSANZ infection control guidelines. Time and motion studies were performed on the dismantling, cleaning, disinfecting, reassembling and re-calibrating of equipment. Conservative estimates were made as to the frequency of replacing pneumotachographs and rubber mouthpieces based on previous equipment turnover. Labour costs for a scientist to reprocess the equipment was based on $20.86/hour. The cost of employing a casual cleaner at an hourly rate of $14.07 to assist in reprocessing equipment was also investigated. The new high efficiency HyperFilter(TM) disposable barrier filter, costing $2.95 was used in this cost-analysis. Results: The cost of reprocessing equipment required for spirometry alone was $17.58 per test if a scientist reprocesses the equipment, and $15.56 per test if a casual cleaner is employed to assist the scientist in performing these duties. In contrast, using a disposable filter would cost only $2.95 per test. Using a filter was considerably less expensive than following the TSANZ guidelines for all tests and equipment used in this cost-analysis. Conclusions: The TSANZ infection control guidelines are expensive and impractical to implement. However, disposable barrier filters provide a practical and inexpensive method of infection control.