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Research Themes
Health & Wellbeing

Research Staff
Prof Alastair Macdonald (Principal Investigator)
Dr Colin Macduff

Arts and Humanities Research Council
Follow-On Funding for Impact and Engagement - Grant Ref: AH/M00628X/1 

This work addresses an important environmental and social health issue, namely healthcare associated infections (HAIs) caused by pathogens such as MRSA, norovirus, and Clostridium difficile which present a substantial global problem. In addition to the distress and potentially fatal consequences for patients who are infected, HAIs are costly. The 2014 World Health Organisation global surveillance report on antimicrobial resistance showed that "a post-antibiotic era – in which common infections and minor injuries can kill – far from being an apocalyptic fantasy, is instead a very real possibility for the 21st Century". The prevention of the spread of HAIs in the first instance is therefore of crucial importance as the significant risk is that the pathogenic micro-organisms, which cause these infections, can make designated healing places become harmful spaces. 

In their work, visionOn researchers developed a proof-of-concept for a tablet-based training tool for use by healthcare staff to raise awareness and understanding of pathogens and their role in Healthcare Associated Infections (HAIs) by using dynamic digital visualisations of microbiological data on pathogens. Using recent microbiological and behavioural data, the team explored ways of best communicating how pathogens and hospital staff behave in the ward context as a basis for healthcare-based infection prevention and control (IPC) training. 

The visualisations made clear the direct relationship between the ward setting and the location, behaviour, causes of spread, and prevention of spread of pathogens. They explored three main themes supported by original quantitative data from research studies involving the microbiologist in the team: transmission of infection and hand hygiene; the effect of cleaning on pathogen growth; and pathogen location and survival properties.

Crucial to the success of the tool is understanding the training needs of staff, and the key preventable errors which lead to the spread of infection: the researchers explored the above themes using tablet-based visualisation prototypes to engage 150 doctors, nurses, and cleaners in an iterative co-development and evaluation process involving NHS Lanarkshire and NHS Grampian Trusts. These NHS partners were closely involved in the specification, co-design, development and evaluation of the training tool to ensure it satisfied the requirements of current NHS training programmes and to maximise the opportunities for its adoption. Work continues in the further development of this training tool.