Healthcare providers follow hand-washing guidelines 34 percent of the time, study finds

With the oft-reported news of hospital-acquired infections being linked to bad hand-washing practices, you would think that healthcare professionals would learn to simply comply with the rules by now. Not so much. 

Hand-hygiene compliance guidelines are followed roughly 34 percent of the time, according to a report published in May's Applied Nursing Research. The study, entitled "Exploring the factors associated with hand hygiene compliance of nurses during routine clinical practice," looked at the hand-washing practices of 67 providers over the course of 16 weeks and 612 procedures performed at an oncology hospital. 

Compliance with hand washing was found to be better for doctors after procedures (72 percent) as opposed to before procedures (42 percent), something the authors believe indicates less of an urgency to protect patients from disease. 

"These findings may suggest that healthcare providers are probably driven to wash their hands by their need to protect themselves more than their patients," the authors wrote. 

Furthermore, the authors referred to their findings as "disturbing," and believe that more "innovative" methods for enforcing hand hygiene may be necessary at hospitals. 

According to MedPage Today, 2.5 million patients develop healthcare-associated infections annually, resulting in 90,000 deaths at a cost of between $.5 billion and $5.7 billion.

For more information:
- read this MedPage Today article
- here's the study's abstract