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Hand hygiene tools help reduce infections; it’s a patient safety issue
e-Reports, July 14, 2014
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that about one in 25 hospital patients has at least one health care-associated infection (HAI), and more than half of all HAIs occur outside of the intensive care unit.

Dr. Webb
Douglas Webb, M.D.
Infection Control for IU Health 

Many studies show that good hand washing practices, with or without gloves, reduce infection risks to patients.

Dr. Webb explained that some IU Health facilities are piloting RFID chip technology in badges that measure compliance around times when staff wash their hands upon entering and leaving a patient room. (Note: The chip does not capture hand hygiene at other points within the patient room.)

“When we think compliance is about 80 percent, it has been shown to be much less when actually measured by this new technology for every entry/exit of the patient rooms. A lot depends on staff leadership and how they are held accountable,” said Dr. Webb. “Many health care workers may not realize they are not washing their hands as well as they thought. We are learning that providing individual feedback on hand hygiene compliance to these health care workers usually results in improved performance, and several reports are also showing associated reduced hospital-acquired infections as a result.”

The Indiana Patient Safety Center and the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology Indiana (APIC) have developed an online tool kit and educational resources to help you comply with hand hygiene guidelines. The information includes the World Health Organization’s five moments of hand hygiene in the patient “zone.”

The Indiana Patient Safety Center defines the patient zone as any object or surface in the patient’s immediate surroundings considered contaminated by the patient’s own pathogens.

Dr. Webb added that while compliance with hand hygiene has improved, opportunities exist for improvement. The addition of alcohol dispensers in patient rooms has clearly helped. The next major step to improvement involves individual accountability for health care workers to comply with hand hygiene.

Find the Indiana Patient Safety Center’s hand hygiene toolkit here.

The Indiana State Department of Health offers a hand hygiene observation form.

Read abstracts on hand hygiene, including RFID chip monitoring, as presented to the ACIP last June here.

The World Health Organization recommends hand hygiene during these five moments:

  1. Before patient contact
  2. Before an aseptic task
  3. After body fluid exposure
  4. After patient contact when leaving the patient zone
  5. After contact with patient surroundings when leaving the patient zone
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