I generally associate the “product commentary” section of this journal with such things as urethral catheters, vascular access devices and antiseptic solutions. Hence, the invitation to write about surgical wound surveillance seemed at first inappropriate. However, the gathering storm over who will supervise wound surveillance involves our own unique product: infection control data. My task is to address concerns common to all business enterprises:
▪ What is the demand?
▪ What does the consumer want?
▪ Who should be the chief executive officer?
▪ What should be our current strategy?
More than 70 years ago, it was shown that making surgeons aware of infection rates can lower their incidence.’ It is now customary to cite a series of studies suggesting that surgeon-specific rate reporting lowers the incidence of postoperative wound infection. First, Cruse and Foord correlated this practice with a lowering of the infection rate from 2.6% to 0.6%. Next, Condon et al. and then Olson et al. reported similar successes. Finally, data from the Centers for Disease Control's SENIC project indicated that two factors clearly correlated with reduced wound infection rates: 1) strong surveillance and control programs; and 2) the presence of an effective infection control physician.” Having both elements in place reduced the infection rate by 41% or 35% for low-risk or high-risk patients, respectively. Having surveillance alone reduced the infection rate by 19% for low-risk patients and 20% for high-risk patients. These findings made the case for wound surveillance seem ironclad.