An 8-step strategy to improve hand-hygiene compliance

Although proper hand-hygiene is considered the most important measure to prevent the spread of infections, nearly 1 in 4 hospitals fail to fully comply with recommended guidelines. But a new guide by the Association for Professional in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) aims to change that and help hospitals boost compliance.  

The 70-page report, "Guide to Hand Hygiene Programs for Infection Prevention," outlines an eight-step multimodal program that hospitals can follow to ensure hand-hygiene program success.

"It's when all those components of hand-hygiene programs are working together effectively that we see the biggest change," Timothy Landers, R.N., lead editor of the guide, said in a report announcement. However, the report makes it clear that without one component--the full support of hospital leadership--programs will continue to fail.

"Leadership's commitment to hand hygiene must be visible and engaging--to the organization and the public through formal communication, hand-hygiene education, promotions, and event sponsorship," the report said.

In addition to leadership support, the guide also recommends that hospitals follow these steps:

  • Establish ongoing monitoring and feedback on infection rates, such as tracking endemic and emerging drug resistant pathogens.
  • Create a multidisciplinary design and response team led by a senior administrator to emphasize that the organization is committed to hand-hygiene compliance. 
  • Provide ongoing education and training for staff, patients, families and visitors. The report suggests the use of instructive posters, pocket cards and brochures for training.
  • Ensure hand-hygiene resources are accessible throughout the organization, including patient care corridors and at the entrance and exit of patient rooms. 
  • Reinforce hand-hygiene behavior and accountability. Some organizations have success conducting contests and recognizing healthcare workers who comply with the guidelines.
  • Provide reminders throughout the healthcare setting. For example, the report suggests organizations provide real-time feedback from observers, coworkers, patients and visitors.
  • Develop an ongoing monitoring program that includes feedback. Some organizations, the report said, post monthly compliance data on hospital units or their hospitals' Web sites and discuss the findings with staff during meetings. 

To learn more:
- download the guide from APIC

Related articles:
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Hospital perceptions of hand hygiene clash with reality
How hospitals can reduce infections, increase hand-hygiene compliance