The idea that hand hygiene is a primary way for reducing the spread of infections in healthcare facilities has been widely accepted around the world. As a result, the World Health Organization (WHO) and many other government health agencies have issued strict guidelines for how often healthcare professionals need to be washing their hands, how they need to wash them, and the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
Unfortunately, much of this information has become background noise in overcrowded and understaffed facilities, where healthcare professionals are skipping important opportunities to wash their hands either because they are not giving forethought to hand hygiene, or as a means of saving time between patient procedures.
It is now more important than ever to take steps to implement a hygiene compliance system that ensures all healthcare professionals are meeting minimum standards for hand washing protocol.
Implementing Compliance Systems
Implementation of hand hygiene compliance begins with proper training. Both the WHO and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have issued slideshows, posters, and other training materials that illustrate infectious disease prevention through proper hand hygiene in healthcare facilities.
US Healthcare employees are typically required to complete annual training on the subject. Training materials should be distributed throughout the facility whenever possible in an effort to better reinforce these practices.
The WHO has simplified this into five simple reminders for situations where care providers should always wash their hands:
- Before coming in contact with a patient
- Before performing an invasive procedure
- After being exposed to bodily fluids
- After being in contact with a patient
- After being in contact with a patient's belongings or surroundings
One indicator that hand hygiene standards are actually being met is the availability of readily accessible hand washing stations or sanitation solutions in patient rooms and major traffic areas.
Intervention in the pursuit of better hand washing compliance comes in several different forms. Regular training sessions to remind providers of the importance of washing their hands are of utmost importance. Some care facilities have also taken steps to add more sinks and sanitizer dispensers along high traffic areas to provide greater opportunity for hand-hygiene compliance.
Ensuring that upper management and all levels of the organization are modeling correct behavior also goes a long way towards setting the standard.
Lastly, some facilities have invited patients to advocate for themselves by asking their providers to wash their hands before beginning any procedure, which provides a final check point along the way.
Despite the helpfulness of interventions in creating an immediate awareness of hand hygiene expectations, studies show that compliance drops off in the long term as people revert to old habits. As a way of preventing this, healthcare facilities are investing in monitoring systems to track whether or not their employees are staying vigilant in the fight against infections. This involves consulting with auditors who directly observe healthcare providers over a period of time to determine when and where they are washing their hands, and when they are missing the mark.
Other scenarios include using video cameras and dispenser trackers to keep track of how often hand-sanitation stations are being used. Each of these comes with a set of pros and cons, but employees that know they are being monitored are more likely to stay on track with their hand washing.
For more information about assessing your perioperative environment for these and other inconsistencies, please contact PREZIO Health for a consultation today.