How do you stop a growing rate of IV line infection in a busy hospital?


Hutt Valley District Health Board


IV Lines Safety Communications


Design thinking, communication design

A difficult problem demanded an inclusive on-the-ground design thinking approach.

Most adult patients admitted to a New Zealand hospital have an intravenous cannula (also called an IV Line) placed during their admission. Although IV lines are an essential element of care for patients, they are associated with a number of complications that can include life-threatening infections.

To lower possible infections Hutt Valley District Health Board Hospital wanted to increase awareness amongst health professionals about the importance of correct insertion and monitoring of IV lines, especially speaking to patients about how their IV lines feel. They also wanted patients and caregivers to understand the risks associated with IV lines, and help them feel empowered to say if their line didn’t feel right.

This would have been a difficult problem to solve without an understanding of what the hospital environment is really like for patients, or as a workplace for health professionals. Regular site visits to the hospital allowed us to observe how the procedure of IV line insertion worked, from beginning to end. These visits helped us to objectively explore what medical instruments were required and how they should be used. Alongside observation, we were able to have conversations with staff, patients and care givers. This gave us an in-depth insight to Hutt Valley DHB’s culture of IV line insertion. This engagement was critical to how we approached solving the problem.

Reducing infection would only be enabled by a change in behaviour around IV insertion.

By being able to observe medical professionals in action we realised our solution needed to be about more than just encouraging best practice. There needed to be a culture shift to help open up communication between health professionals and patients about IV lines.

Playing on the word IV ‘lines’, Know Your IV Lines is about having the knowledge of the right procedures, the right questions to ask and the right things to say. We armed them with ‘lines’ to help easily remember correct insertion procedure and to encourage conversation with patients.

To keep communications front of mind, tools were created that fit into health professionals everyday routine and were highly visible in wards for patients.

Empowering two way conversation was the key to unlocking change.

On the 5th of September 2017, Hutt Valley DHB celebrated the launch of ‘Know your IV lines’. From decals to t-shirts and lanyards, the hospital environments were with their new communications. The hospital was buzzing with conversation as staff took ownership of ‘Know your IV lines’. Everyone was thrilled with the new approach to IV line insertion, with even the most cynical audiences embracing their new design solution. With great success Hutt Valley DHB are already experiencing a reduction in IV line infections. We have been asked by the DHB to speak at the National Infection Conference in Oct 2017 to share the co-design approach as best practice for other District Health boards and health providers to learn from.

"Having a design company work with us throughout the project made a huge difference to how we approached the problem. The results were well above our expectations and definitely increased the impact of the campaign. We wouldn’t have come close to something similar on our own."
Dr Matthew Kelly (aka Dr Matt)

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