Patient safety experts: Make hand hygiene, flu shots mandatory for healthcare workers

Clinicians must no longer have the right to refuse to follow best practices for hand hygiene and influenza vaccinations, according to leading patient safety advocates in a Health Affairs blog post.

Although there may be exceptions in the case of emergencies, healthcare organizations must demand 100 percent adherence to what board members of the National Patient Safety Foundation's Lucian Leape Institute describe as "must do" practices, wrote Robert Wachter, M.D., professor and associate chair of the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, on behalf of the board.

Hand hygiene and influenza vaccinations for healthcare workers address "significant safety problems," he wrote, adding that, "substantial literature" has shown that that widespread adherence with these two practices are associated with "major reductions in harm."

"Universal compliance is feasible; indeed, compliance rates close to 100 percent have already been achieved in some institutions though such rates are far from typical," Wachter wrote. 

Although proper hand hygiene is considered the most important measure to prevent the spread of infections, nearly one in four hospitals fail to fully comply with recommended guidelines, FierceHealthcare previously reported. 

To obtain full compliance with these practices, Wachter wrote that healthcare leaders must hold clinicians accountable and set up effective monitoring and disciplinary systems. Compliance expectations must be included in bylaws and contracts. Leaders must also be willing to fire clinicians for deliberate and repetitive non-compliance, he wrote.

To learn more:
- read the blog post