Cleveland hospital dropped HAI rates with hand-washing campaign

MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland reduced hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) and raised hand-washing compliance to 97.6 percent across various clinical units, The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported.

The campaign started in 2010 after a bacterial infection spread from patient to patient, and the hospital experienced a problem with the antibiotic-resistant organism Acinetobacter baumannii, Al Connors, MetroHealth's chief medical officer, told the newspaper. "People were good at coming up with excuses why they didn't need to wash hands," Connors said. "But when you walk into a patient's room, you never know what's going to happen."

To overcome the problem, the hospital hired four hand-washing monitors, who observed and tracked who washed their hands as they walked in and out of patient rooms, according to the article. Since 2010, central line-associated bloodstream infections dropped 35 percent, ventilator-associated pneumonia fell 71 percent, and surgical site infections decreased by 64 percent, while HAIs at the hospital as a whole dropped 38 percent.

Hospitals across the country and the state also address hand-washing initiatives. At University Hospitals in Cleveland, the hand-hygiene campaign includes raising one's hand as a non-verbal, non-confrontational reminder, while hospital leaders occasionally monitor hand-washing. The Cleveland Clinic designates an infection prevention "champion" on each floor who's the go-to person for questions about hygiene and monitors hand-washing.

While some hospitals use technology to monitor physician and staff hand-washing compliance, "[t]he most effective intervention is having a culture within your organization that allows [such monitoring] in a non-punitive fashion, with peer-to-peer interaction," Thomas Fraser, M.D., vice chairman of the Department of Infectious Diseases at the Cleveland Clinic and medical director for infection prevention for the Clinic's main campus, told The Plain Dealer.

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