Thursday, June 3, 2010

Hospitals Still Struggle With Providers Washing Their Hands

It seems very basic doesn't it? Providers need to wash their hands before and after interacting with patients. Every care provider knows this as well as the potential risks to patients and themselves for not following guidelines. So why is this so hard to do? I'm not sure why but I know that it is still an issue.

In the May issue of Applied Nursing Research a study of 67 providers who were followed over a course of 16 weeks showed them to be compliant with handwashing guidelines only 34% of the time. Doctors were more compliant washing their hands after procedures rather than before (72% vs 42%). This suggests that they are far more interested in protecting themselves rather than their patients. Almost all hospitals have gel dispensers either inside or just outside every patient room. What will it take to get providers to use them?

We at Compirion have helped hospitals address this issue. At Bay Medical Center in Florida the handwashing compliance was about 25%, even worse than this recent study. Like most hospitals we see, it had fallen to Infection Control to be the handwashing police. But they could not have a large enough presence to obtain good compliance. So we helped them create a Steering Team to address this issue. It had widespread, across the board involvement from the CEO down to housekeeping. With this kind of attention, behaviors changed rapidly. Their compliance rose to the 90% range and has remained there after the initial push.

By the way, their overall hospital mortality rate dropped from 3.4 to 2.1 during this period. Was this simply coincidence? According to MedPage Today, there are over 90,000 deaths a year from healthcare related infections and additional costs of $5-6 billion to treat them.

Excuse me, I have to go wash my hands.

More on this later.

Mark Brodeur

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