Hand hygiene in healthcare settings is crucial to the health and wellbeing of patients and staff. Taking care of patients, their families, and keeping up with demanding work are stressful enough, and the risk of infections spreading only adds to this. Facilities can make infection prevention easier for employees by providing products that make hand hygiene quick and convenient for them to perform at all of the necessary times.
Unfortunately, healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) are a common problem. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are about 1.4 million people battling HAIs at any given moment. Even worse, this is likely a low estimate due to poor reporting practices in different countries. In developed countries, 5-10% of the complications experienced by admitted patients are a result of HAIs. These account for 80,000 deaths per year in the United States and 8,000-12,000 deaths per year in Canada.
Hand Hygiene Compliance Problems
According to the Centers for Disease Control, most hand hygiene compliance rates are around 40%, and sometimes even lower. Workers say reasons like irritation and dryness of hands, understaffed and overcrowded conditions, forgetting or ignoring protocol, and inconveniently located amenities are why hand hygiene is not performed as often as necessary. There are several instances that require it, such as before…
- Patient contact (even “clean” activities, like taking pulse, temperature, and blood pressure)
- Putting on gloves to insert central venous catheter
- Inserting any non-surgical devices
- Removing gloves
- Patient contact
- Contact with the area and/or objects surrounding a patient
- Restroom use
- Moving from a contaminated to a clean site within the vicinity of a patient
- Touching body fluids, excretions, wound dressings, and non-intact skin of a patient
The need for fast, convenient hand hygiene is real. A study performed in an understaffed and/or overcrowded hospital observed a compliance rate of 25%. This low rate made the risk of HAI contraction four times greater. When conditions were improved, compliance shot up to 70%, which reduced the risk of contracting HAIs.
What Can Healthcare Facilities Do?
Conveniently, alcohol-based hand sanitizers, like Purell, are the most effective and fastest method. Installing dispensers throughout facilities will give workers plenty of opportunities to clean their hands while on the go. The CDC recommends an alcohol-based formula that has 60-95% alcohol for its effective kill rate. Strategically placing dispensers in high-traffic areas, near or in patient rooms, and where ever else there may be a need will make complying with hand hygiene much easier for everyone. Aside from certain situations, hand sanitizer can be used during most routine patient care.
The CDC also recommends that soap and water be used when hands are visibly dirty, after possible exposure to Bacillus anthracis, norovirus, or Clostridium difficile, after using the restroom, and before eating. Providing touch-free handwashing amenities, like automatic soap dispensers with sealed refills, automatic faucets, and paper towel dispensers will ensure that employees have everything they need to clean their hands while avoiding cross-contamination. Recontaminating hands just after washing is easy to do, either by touching faucet handles (a hotspot for germs) to turn the sink off or by pulling the door handle to leave. For this reason, keeping hand sanitizer dispensers inside restrooms by the door will ensure that everyone leaves with safe, clean hands.
Hand hygiene is a necessity in the healthcare industry. Investing in the right products and the services to maintain them will emphasize the need for compliance among employees, and provide a sense of reassurance to patients and visitors.