Healthcare News & Insights

Are these hidden HAI risks hurting your patients’ safety?

Many hospitals aren’t taking the correct precautions to protect patients from a common infection risk from hospital staff. 

134179054That safety risk? Dirty scrubs.

A recent investigation by the Tampa Bay Florida Channel 10 News team, showed that a large number of hospitals are exposing patients to hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) in the operating room by not having, or not enforcing, policies about changing and cleaning scrubs.

No scrubs policy

The report consisted of a hidden-camera investigation supplemented with interviews with medical professionals from a variety of healthcare facilities in the area. Journalists found a large number of staffers were able to come and go from operating rooms without changing scrubs.  This includes workers that arrived to work in scrubs and then went into an OR.

According to medical analyst Dr. John Wolfson, this could put patients going in for surgery at risk of developing HAIs from the germs left on scrubs.

However, the investigation did show that there were facilities with strict policies that scrubs be changed before and after surgery.

One facility in the area has a policy that scrubs worn by staff in the operating room, endoscopy/procedures department, sterile processing department or interventional radiology aren’t allowed to leave the hospital. Instead, the hospital takes it upon itself to send those scrubs out for cleaning to ensure that no germs or dangerous pathogens enter or leave these sensitive areas.

Lackluster hand washing

Unclean scrubs may not be the only HAI risk flying under your radar. A new study shows that clinical staffers are less likely to comply with hand-washing rules as their shifts progress, MinnPost reports.

The study looked at data from 4,157 medical professionals at 35 hospitals, and found the rate at which providers washed their hands fell by 9% from the beginning to the end of a typical 12-hour shift. However, the more time physicians and nurses had between shifts, the more likely they were to follow hand-washing regulations. Additionally, these trends were exacerbated when the staffer worked long hours the previous week.

The researchers theorize this is because hand-washing is often considered a low priority, which may fall by the way-side as staffers experience mental fatigue during their shifts. Based on their calculations, researchers believe this 9% gap could lead to about 600,000 HAIs and 35,000 unnecessary deaths each year.

Recently, hospitals with high rates of HAIs and preventable readmissions have come under scrutiny by payors implementing value-based reimbursement models. And the facilities with the highest rates recently had their pay docked 1% by Medicare. These are just two reasons why your facility needs to constantly look for ways to reduce HAIs and readmissions.

Having set policies about changing scrubs and finding ways to remind staff of hand-washing protocols are two small ways to have a big impact on reducing HAIs in your facility.

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