If you or a loved one is visiting an outpatient facility (also known as an ambulatory care facility) for care, there are some important things you need to know to prevent infections.

Why is infection prevention important for patients in ambulatory care settings?

  • Many people frequently rely on the use of ambulatory care settings to provide basic healthcare or for diagnosis and treatment of their illness.
  • Outbreaks of bacteria, viruses, and parasites do occur in outpatient settings. In many cases, these outbreaks have occurred because basic infection prevention procedures were not followed (e.g., reusing syringes that lead to the transmission of bloodborne viruses).

What patients can do:

  • Download the AHRQ/APIC consumer piece for ambulatory surgery centers.

    If you have symptoms of a respiratory infection, cover your mouth with the inside of your elbow when coughing or sneezing and clean your hands. Wear a mask while in the outpatient setting.

  • Dispose of your used tissues promptly.
  • Wash hands using either soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer after contact with respiratory secretions.
  • In waiting areas, try to sit as far away from other patients as possible if you have a respiratory illness so that you do not infect others.

What patients can observe/ask:

  • Make sure that your healthcare providers are cleaning their hands before and after touching you, even if they will be wearing gloves. It’s OK to ask them to clean their hands if you have not seen them do so.
  • Ask if the needle and syringe have been newly opened for you; syringes and needles should only be used one time and on one patient.
  • Ask your healthcare provider if you should be receiving any vaccines to keep you healthy. As a reminder, everyone over the age of 6 months should get a flu vaccine each year.
  • If your healthcare provider has given you a prescription for antibiotics, be sure to ask the following questions:
    1. “Do I really need an antibiotic?”
    2. “Can I get better without this antibiotic?”
    3. “What side effects or drug interactions can I expect?”
    4. “What side effects should I report to you?”
    5. “How do you know what kind of infection I have? I understand that antibiotics won’t work for viral infections.”

What family members or other visitors can do:

  • Wash hands frequently with hand sanitizer or soap and water.
  • Family members or visitors who are ill should stay at home if possible.
  • If family members have signs of a respiratory illness and must accompany you, they should cover their mouth with the inside of their elbow when coughing or sneezing and clean their hands. They should also wear a mask, which is available at the front desk.

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