Maryland Statewide Prevention and Reduction Collaborative (SPARC)

The Maryland Statewide Prevention and Reduction Collaborative (SPARC) is a quality improvement project among public health, academics, and acute care facilities to address the infection control and prevention needs of Maryland hospitals. The collaborative includes the Maryland Prevention Epicenters (University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine), the Maryland Department of Health (MDH), NORC, and Maryland acute care hospitals.

In previous years, SPARC focused on prevention and reduction of Clostridioides difficile infections (CDIs) and providing support to facilities throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. As a response to high CDIs, SPARC hospitals developed and implemented customized interventions to enhance CDI prevention efforts. Twelve participating hospitals reported a 45 percent greater CDI reduction compared to non-participating hospitals, and the Maryland statewide Standardized Infection Ratio (SIR) decreased from 0.92 in 2018 to 0.61 in 2019. For COVID-19, SPARC leveraged weekly MDH COVID-19 update calls to provide expert-led discussions, panel discussions, and question and answer town halls. In an assessment of SPARC activities, over 75% of survey respondents (n=31) stated that SPARC was very responsive to their needs for information related to COVID-19.

As hospitals balance continued COVID-19 infection prevention with traditional healthcare-associated infection (HAI) prevention, SPARC aims to adapt and pivot its focus to broadly support activities addressing healthcare-associated infection prevention and antibiotic use and resistance. As a result, SPARC launched a new effort focused on antibiotic stewardship in Summer 2022.

The first phase of SPARC’s new activities consists of a needs assessment of Maryland hospitals to determine high-priority needs related to National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) antimicrobial use and resistance (AUR) reporting and antibiotic stewardship activities. The findings from this needs assessment will inform SPARC on the best approaches for developing a statewide antibiotic stewardship improvement initiative. This initiative aims to optimize antibiotic use through the following activities:

  • Working directly with hospitals to facilitate standardized antibiotic use data extraction and reporting to the NHSN AUR module.
  • Providing support to hospitals to promote successful and sustainable antibiotic stewardship activities.
  • Ensuring participating antibiotic stewardship teams are up to date on best practices in the diagnosis and treatment of common inpatient infections.

This new initiative will allow hospitals to be ahead of the curve for antibiotic stewardship in Maryland. NORC serves as SPARC’s implementation contractor, providing technical assistance, operational support, and leading evaluation activities.

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