Streamlined hand hygiene processes can curb the spread of infectious disease

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Emily Nardone, Director Product Marketing, AiRISTA Flow

Hospitals are expected to not only treat but also prevent infectious diseases from spreading within their walls and, naturally, good hand hygiene is the first line of defense. Creating clear expectations and standards, or internal regulations, for imparting good hand hygiene among your employees can help ensure disease does not spread between patients. Maintaining adherence to these regulations is something that is even easier when proper hygiene practices are simple to enact and track.

Establishing hand hygiene standards and ensuring compliance

A hand hygiene program should be built around the specific needs of your staff. A few vital considerations include:

  • Placing hand washing stations in convenient locations relative to where staff members interact with patients throughout the day.
  • Avoiding tedious clerical processes that will distract users and limit their ability to focus on patient care.
  • Providing a wide range of hand washing products so clinicians with sensitive skin or similar conditions can still comply.
  • Being intentional about training staff on why hand hygiene matters for patient care and why complying will benefit them in the long run.

These basic tips can help you set the foundation for hand hygiene compliance, something that is easier to achieve when you also take the step of standardizing hand washing processes.

A recent study published by the academic journal Management Science found that standardization and electronic monitoring play essential roles in ensuring hand hygiene compliance. The researchers behind the study analyzed hand hygiene procedures and found that standardizing the processes around hand washing improves the user response, but compliance still tends to hover below 50 percent. However, combining standardized operations with electronic monitoring through radio frequency identification tools led to substantial improvements in compliance.

Using location tracking technologies in 71 hospital units over the course of three-and-a-half years found that compliance increased substantially, particularly in units that already tended to follow best practices to a great extent prior to the program’s activation. Additionally, the researchers halted individual monitoring in some units after the program was already well established, which led them to discover that compliance dropped significantly after that point. Proper process standardization and streamlined electronic monitoring through technologies such as location tracking systems can help ensure users follow internal regulations.

Considering the implications of hand hygiene programs

Putting the time and effort into establishing a formalized electronic hand hygiene system that also incorporates electronic monitoring may seem like a burden. However, the strategy is already showing it has powerful implications when it comes to preventing the spread of infectious disease.

According to The Times of India, a recent study from the Indian Council of Medical Research performed at the AIIMS Trauma Centre, found that an effective hand hygiene program can have a staggering impact on hospitals. While the study took place in India, its results have global implications, showing real-world examples of how proper hand washing procedures can put a halt to infectious disease.

“As part of the study, we monitored the rates of Ventilator-associated pneumonia in 4,840 patients, which was found to have reduced from 44 percent to 8.1 percent,” Purva Mathur, additional professor, microbiology department and the Infection Control Incharge at AIIMS Trauma Centre told the news source. “The rate of Central line-associated bloodstream infections reduced from 27.6 percent to 2.4 percent and Urinary Tract Infections reduced from 37 percent to 2.6 percent.”

Speaking at the Global Hand Hygiene Day, AIIMS Director M C Mishra explained that the World Health Organization strongly recommends that hospitals take hand hygiene seriously, especially as more than half of hospital-acquired infections stem from contaminated hands.

Using location tracking technologies to simplify hand hygiene

The positive implications of a streamlined hand hygiene program are clear. Electronic monitoring can empower hospitals to simplify internal compliance by easily tracking who is following best practices and when.

A real-time location tracking system can track staff locations on an ongoing basis, documenting where they have traveled within your facility, using your existing Wi-Fi network assets to pinpoint where they are. Using multiple technologies only available from leading RTLS providers, you can also use a bluetooth connection on hand hygiene stations to automatically interact with badge tags to record when those staff members pause to wash their hands. These systems can also identify when staff have entered and exited patient rooms without pausing to wash their hands.

Tedious clerical work can distract your staff. Having medical staff manually record when they have washed their hands demands that they stop what they’re doing and take their focus away from patient care. Busy doctors and nurses are more likely to skip hand hygiene if they must deal with these kinds of barriers. RTLS systems that automatically track staff locations and interact with hand wash stations streamline adherence to good hand hygiene practices for staff and allow them to help put a halt to the spread of infectious disease.

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