Hospitalized patients show poor hand-washing habits

Hospitals around the country focus efforts on improving employees' hand-hygiene compliance, but may want to spend more time encouraging hospitalized patients to wash their hands, according to a new study published in Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology.

Researchers did a cross-sectional study of 279 patients admitted to three multi-organ transplant units at Canadian acute care teaching hospitals, according to the study abstract. They monitored patients' use of alcohol-based hand rub and soap dispensers during visits to the bathrooms, at mealtimes, kitchen visits, and going into and coming out of their hospital rooms.

Researchers found patients washed their hands during almost 30 percent of bathroom visits, about 39 percent during mealtimes, just more than 3 percent of kitchen visits, less than 3 percent of room entries and almost 7 percent of room exits, according to the abstract. This inattention to hand hygiene could contribute to transmission of pathogens from the hospital environment, researchers said.

In addition to washing their hands more, both patients and medical staff could improve hand hygiene and decrease the spread of disease by fist-bumping rather than shaking hands, FierceHealthcare previously reported. In previous studies, researchers found the highest bacterial transfer during the handshake. The transfer level fell by more than half for a high-five and by a full 90 percent for a fist-bump.

However, as hand-hygiene efforts continue, the Food and Drug Administration is concerned antibacterial soap could expose workers to unsafe levels of the chemical triclosan, which could affect hormone levels. Researchers encourage healthcare workers to use plain water and soap.

To learn more:
- here's the study abstract