Did you know? It’s in your hands!

Did you know?  It is estimated that there are over 1.7 million cases of healthcare associated infections (HAI) at any given time just in the U.S.  Healthcare workers are often the conduit, or culprit, for the spread of these infections.  100,000 deaths related to HAI’s could have been prevented and the healthcare costs of $20 billion could be saved.

It is easy to understand that the hands of staff can become contaminated even after seemingly ‘clean’ procedures such as:  taking a pulse, a temperature, or even touching a patient’s hand, shoulder or groin.

Did you know?  Even knowing the above statistic, compliance can be as low as zero percent with compliance levels most frequently well below 40%.  Don’t believe us?  Navigate on over to WHO, this is where we gathered our statistics.

Did you know?  Here’s another fun fact, if a Joint Commission Surveyor observes one clinician failing to wash their hands properly, then the hospital will be cited.  Let that marinate!  One person, lapsing just one time could mean vast consequences for the entire hospital. 

What is a hospital to do…there’s always direct observation but we all know the hidden danger here is susceptibility to the Hawthorne Effect.  When you know you are being observed you are more likely to perform as expected because you are being observed.  Hospital administrations can employ the tactic of secret shoppers to observe, this will give a more accurate picture of staffs hand washing performance but secret shoppers don’t stay secret forever.  It’s also in the numbers, evaluate year over year the HAI’s, have they increased or decreased?  If so, by what percentage and can it be attributed to your observation and precautionary measures?

The traditional methods of observation and evaluation are more passive and still not the most accurate of methods to rely on.  Enter the electronic hand hygiene reminder system that can capture nearly all hand hygiene opportunities as opposed to just some.  This system can remind as well as collect usable data to be evaluated.  These systems while highly effective do come with their own set of problems.  Alarm fatigue is real.  It’s important to consider when deciding the type of reminders that will initiate a response.  The more attention this issue receives the more likely change will happen.

There’s even a World Hand Hygiene Day!  Of course hand hygiene has to have its own day, just like the chocolate chip cookie, trees and the panda bear!  It’s a call-to-action campaign for healthcare workers by the World Health Organization urging clinicians to clean their hands at the right times and build on hand hygiene improvement.

Don’t get us wrong, we have most definitely come a long way in our fight of HAI’s.  Throwing it way back to the first physician, Ignaz Semmelweiss, who suggested hand-washing, in 1846.  Unbelievably he was ostracized for merely suggesting that patient’s deaths could be attributed to cross contamination from germs and bacteria and the carriers were the healthcare workers themselves.  If people had just listened to Semmelweiss then countless numbers of lives could have been saved a feverish and agonizing death.

The end goals for these tactics resulting in positive outcomes are two fold, decreasing HAI’s and avoiding the wrath of The Joint Commission.

Ultimately, healthcare workers care about their patients and want to do the right thing.  We are compassionate and hardworking but we are also very busy.  Employing different tactics such as posters, lectures, observation and reminder systems can inspire and change behaviors.

Join the conversation on May 5, 2018 on social media  #handhygiene and #cleanhandscount

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