Coming Clean – Handwashing Awareness in Healthcare

Coming Clean - Handwashing Awareness in HealthcareAccording to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), annually there are about 1.7 million cases of healthcare related infections (HAIs) resulting in 99,000 deaths at an additional cost of $28-33 billion for institutions. Equally concerning is the fact that a large percentage of those deaths are preventable, through compliance with hygiene guidelines, particularly hand washing.  The CDC provides educational resources and partners with healthcare facilities to improve compliance and reduce disease and mortality rates.  But despite their best efforts, the median compliance rate remains at an unacceptable 40% among all U.S. healthcare workers.  An article in the December 2012 issue of “Hospital Epidemiology” notes a further aggravating trend – the reluctance of patients to question their healthcare workers about hand hygiene.

National Handwashing Awareness Week is December 2-8, 2012 and is sponsored by “The Henry the Hand Foundation”.  In addition to partnering with schools across the country, the Foundation has introduced a novel “Puppets for Patients” Program to break down the communication barriers between patients and their caregivers concerning the transmission of infections.  Increased compliance is also being addressed through the use of technology and/or trained observers. The University of Vanderbilt Medical Center saw an increase from 58% compliance (2003) to 91% compliance (2009) with the use of patient room observers. To improve efficacy and reduce data input time, the Center then developed an in-house software app allowing for discrete, real-time data entry and more timely reporting.  Accessible to the general public is the IOS free app “Handwash Counter” by Steven Lipton of Biotest Services, Inc.  It tracks not only the frequency of handwashing but also demos proper technique.

If you are an RN, CHT, OT, COTA, PT, PTA, SLP, or Rehab Manager, you know the risks of acquiring and transmitting infections in the workplace.  Do your part to reduce that risk…use those soaps and sanitizers frequently!  If you want to find a clinical setting that best utilizes your skills and is taking steps to increase patient safety – call the Centra Team at 800 535 0076.

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