Healthcare News & Insights

Hand hygiene: Keys to compliance

The easiest way to prevent infections in patients is practicing proper hand hygiene. But hospitals across the country are missing the mark. A new report describes just how lax hand-washing practices are in many facilities – and how to improve adherence to hand-washing guidelines. 

Medical Professional Washing HandsAccording to the report, released by the Leapfrog Group and based on the results of its 2014 Hospital Survey, nearly a quarter of hospitals (23%) aren’t following all the recommended policies and practices for hand washing. These practices include:

  • hospitalwide education and training on hand hygiene
  • submitting a report to the hospital’s board about the current state of hand hygiene in the facility, with recommendations and results
  • holding senior leadership and patient safety personnel accountable for hand hygiene
  • documenting expenses related to hand-hygiene education
  • creating specific policies and procedures to prevent infections due to issues with hand hygiene, and
  • implementing and/or monitoring performance improvement programs designed to prevent infections through thorough hand washing.

Overall, almost every hospital examined in the report has implemented some sort of hospitalwide education and training initiative about preventing infections with proper hand hygiene. But some hospitals have made more progress than others.

Geographic location matters. Urban hospitals meet the Leapfrog Group’s standards better than rural ones. Only five states had over 90% of participating hospitals that met each objective: Florida, New Jersey, Nevada, Tennessee and Oregon. And in six states, only 60% or less of hospitals met all these objectives (Arizona, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Missouri, New Mexico and Alabama).

Better hand washing

Along with meeting the Leapfrog Group’s standards, an effective hospital hand-washing compliance program must align with the “4 As:”

  • Awareness. Staff must have knowledge about why regular hand washing is important to stop the spread of infection. Training should happen periodically so the information is at the forefront of staff members’ minds.
  • Action. Giving staff information about proper hand washing is useless if it’s not put into practice by everyone – from head doctors and surgeons to nurses. Make sure that all staff members are actually applying their knowledge of proper hand hygiene, no matter what level they’re on in the organization.
  • Accountability. Hospitals must hold staff accountable for following correct hand-washing protocol. If your facility has a patient safety officer, this person needs to take an active role in making sure everyone follows the proper procedures.
  • Ability. Does your hospital have the resources to conduct regular training sessions on hand hygiene? Take your budget and staff levels into account, and consider bolstering these areas if they’re lacking.

Hospitals need to review their hand-washing compliance programs to see if they contain all these elements.

Because excellent hand hygiene is a crucial – and simple – step toward preventing deadly and costly infections, achieving 100% compliance with these standards should be a priority in every facility.

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  1. Paul Alper says:

    The real issue with HH compliance is measurement – the so called gold standard – that is direct observation has been proven to be inaccurate and unreliable in multiple peer reviewed studies….hospitals need to adopt 24/7 automated technology that reports HH compliance based on the WHO guideline in real time. Then they can use the reliable data to support legitimate improvement and ensure optimized patient safety. Paul Alper VP Patient safety strategy for DebMed.