In the study, Infectious disease experts, who just published a practical guide for infectious disease control in clinics, reveal how we can all help make a difference in infection control

The first-of-its-kind paper in Open Forum Infectious Diseases, a publication of the Infectious Disease Society of America, the step-by-step guide specifies exactly what clinicians need to do to achieve better infection prevention and control as health care delivery continues to shift from hospital to outpatient settings. 

"Our mantra is 'It's OK to ask.' So it's OK to ask your doctor or nurse if they washed their hands and if the instrument they are using on you is sterilized. People need to be their advocates to make sure they're being taken care of safely," said Ostrosky.

Among the key areas of focus are injection safety, cleaning and sterilization, high-level disinfection and something everyone can play a part in practicing — good hand hygiene.

"Patients should also make use of the hand gel sanitizer dispensers in clinic reception areas. We advocate for the use of these gels for medical professionals before and after they finish an examination," he said. "Also, using soap and water is necessary when there's visible soiling of the hands because the gel will not wash it away."

"People can make sure the injection is drawn in a sterile fashion and that an antiseptic is used. It needs to be a brand new syringe, and the little stopper for the vial must be wiped. Think fresh, in front of you, sterile materials and antiseptics," Ostrosky explained.

Glucose meters, used to measure blood sugar levels, are singled out especially as needing standardization and training on disinfection. The device is cited as a priority due to its historical association with transmission of bloodborne pathogens — infectious microorganisms in blood that can cause diseases such as hepatitis. 

Airborne illnesses, such as measles and tuberculosis, are another issue demanding patients speak up. Clinics need to be notified upon or before the arrival of possible infections so that appropriate precautions can be taken. 

"Letting the receptionist know up front should be a patient responsibility, as there's a full procedure for dealing with this. There are masks and tissues we can give the patient and a different area, so they're not in the general waiting room," Ostrosky said.

As medical practice is increasingly moving out of hospitals and into clinics, antibiotic resistance, which occurs when bacteria change in a way that reduces the effectiveness of drugs, is another focus area. Viral infections, for example, do not require antibiotics but some physicians might still order them.

Ostrosky said: "We're working with our doctors and patients to question the use of antibiotics and we're rolling out guidelines for infections. On the patient empowerment side it's OK to ask, 'Do I really need an antibiotic?' and not demand one."