Hand-hygiene compliance requires healthcare leader buy-in

Although most healthcare system leaders surveyed have a clear commitment to support hand hygiene, a new World Health Organization study indicates there is room for improvement.

Approximately 80 percent of chief executive officers, 70 percent of medical directors and 86 percent of directors of nursing have clearly defined hand hygiene as a priority, according to a survey of 129 healthcare facilities as part of the study published in the American Journal of Infection Control.

About 77 percent of organizations reported they had alcohol-based hand sanitizer accessible throughout their facilities at each point of care, and about 83 percent reported they conducted mandatory, annual hand-hygiene training, according to the study. Almost 60 percent of those hospitals have a dedicated hand-hygiene team, and nearly 40 percent have designated hand-hygiene campaigns.

However only slightly more than 50 percent report that they share local innovations in hand hygiene, and approximately 53 percent have a hand-hygiene training budget.

Facilities with more than .75 infection preventionists per 100 beds reported better hand-hygiene results than those with lower ratios, as did those who have hand-hygiene campaigns, according to the study.

"The tone for compliance with infection control guidelines is set at the highest levels of management, and our study also found that executives aren't always doing all that they can to send a clear message that preventing infections is a priority," said co-lead author Laurie Conway, R.N., a student at Columbia Nursing, in a study announcement.

Hand hygiene isn't the only infection concern for hospitals. A new study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings reveals that physicians' stethoscopes are often just as germ-laden as hands and factor into the spread of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

Researchers found that aerobic colony counts and MRSA colony-forming unit counts were highest on doctors' fingertips and stethoscope diaphragms. Researchers concluded a single physicial examination raised stethoscope contamination levels and were comparable to the levels on parts of a physician's dominant hand. 

They also stressed the importance of physicians washing their hands before and after each examination, as well as wiping down reusable equipment with alcohol-based rubs.

Regularly cleaning sanitizer gel dispensers reduces operating room contamination by 75 percent, while healthcare workers who carried personal bottles of sanitizer were nearly 30 percent more likely to use it, a American Society of Anesthesiologists study found, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- here's the WHO study
- read the study announcement
- read the stethoscope study abstract