Hand-hygiene compliance booster: On-the-spot intervention

By David Ferguson

Organizations can dramatically improve hand-hygiene compliance when infection control personnel provide on-the-spot intervention, according to a study presented at last week's Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology 2015 annual meeting in Nashville, Tennessee.

Despite the fact that healthcare workers are well aware that following proper hand-hygiene protocols will reduce healthcare-associated infections, studies repeatedly show they routinely ignore that simple rule, Jorge Parada, M.D., medical director/committee chair, infection control at Loyola University, Department of Medicine, told Medscape MultiSpecialty.

Indeed, FierceHealthcare recently reported that nearly 1 in 4 hospitals fail at hand hygiene practices in spite of decades of hard evidence that proper hand-washing is highly effective at stopping the spread of secondary infections in healthcare settings.

Hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) struck approximately 722,000 patients in the U.S. in 2011 and nearly 75,000 patients died, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These infections are often resistant to drugs, which makes them more difficult and expensive to treat.

Parada's team tracked workers at Loyola Hospital in Chicago via cameras positioned at hand-hygiene stations, according to Medscape. Over the course of three months, the team monitored some 6,000 hand-washings. When employees were lax, members of the team spoke with them immediately, asking in a "non-confrontational, open-ended manner" why they hadn't cleaned their hands after a patient interaction or treatment.

Common responses, Parada told Medscape, were that they forgot, their hands were full, the sanitizer dispenser was broken or empty, or they felt that hand hygiene wasn't necessary because they were wearing gloves.

The team found that these interventions were successful at raising compliance levels and instilling in workers the importance of hand-hygiene best practices. Many workers didn't think they needed to wash their hands if they entered a room but weren't planning to have direct patient contact. Others believed that gloves were an acceptable replacement for hand hygiene, Parada said.

His team aims to raise compliance levels to 90 percent. But many barriers remain, FierceHealthcare previously reported. A study in early 2015 warned that efforts to improve hand hygiene may contribute to a rise in dermatitis among healthcare workers, a condition that carries increased infection risks. Proper hand-hygiene protocols also are not enough to control the spread of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus among hospitalized patients.

To learn more:
- read the Medscape article

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