GAO: More Action Needed to Address Unsafe Injections in Ambulatory Care

August 10, 2012 | Strategic Insights for Ambulatory Care


The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has taken some steps to address unsafe injection practices, but more action is needed to address injection safety in ambulatory care, concludes a July 2012 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). Most known bloodborne pathogen outbreaks attributed to unsafe injection practices (e.g., use of syringes on multiple patients) have occurred in ambulatory care. From 2001 through 2011, at least 18 outbreaks of viral hepatitis associated with unsafe injection practices occurred in such settings. However, the report notes that because these outbreaks are often difficult to detect, their true extent is likely greater. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) oversees injection practices by setting and enforcing health and safety standards that apply to ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs) but not physician offices. Starting in 2009, CMS required surveyors to use an infection control worksheet to document whether ASCs use safe injection practices.

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