Gina Pugliese, VP Safety Institute

Sept 2013 Wall Street Journal program: "Improving Hand Hygiene"

Hand hygiene introduction

Hand washing, also referred to as hand hygiene, is one of the best ways to avoid getting sick and spreading infections to others, in the home, at work, at school, when traveling, or in a healthcare setting. The attention to prevention of H1N1 influenza has helped propel this “simple” measure into the spotlight as a new habit to stay healthy and prevent the spread of infections like flu, colds or intestinal illnesses. Hand washing requires only soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that doesn’t even require water to use. Public health experts are hoping that everyone would adopt the habit of always cleaning hands when preparing food, eating, using the toilet, changing a diaper, or touching a sick or injured person. Special hand hygiene guidelines are available for healthcare professionals that provide the scientific evidence for the effectiveness of hand hygiene.

I Wanna Wash My Hands- Henry Ford Hospital Video

Soap – water and sanitizers

Hand hygiene is accomplished by either hand washing using soap and water, or hand sanitizing by rubbing hands with alcohol-based hand rubs (ABHR). Hand washing with soap and water when hands are visibly soiled is still the gold standard. However, in most all other situations, the use of ABHR and its ease of use and convenience has dramatically improved hand hygiene in all settings, including healthcare, where hand hygiene has been shown to reduce the risk of healthcare-associated infections.

The public can purchase soap and sanitizers in the grocery or convenience stores and small, conveniently sized alcohol hand sanitizers can be kept literally anywhere. In the healthcare setting, larger volume containers of alcohol hand sanitizers are stored and dispensed, requiring compliance with special procedures and fire codes.

Healthcare settings

Hand hygiene by healthcare personnel is seen as the most important strategy to prevent patient-to-patient transmission of healthcare-associated infection (HAI) in any healthcare setting. Consumers seeking medical care are increasingly aware of hand hygiene as one of the key measures to prevent healthcare associated infections and recognize their need to partner with caregivers’ practices to help improve the frequency of hand hygiene, often less than optimal.

All health care professionals know the importance of hand hygiene to prevent spread of infection, but also recognize that they sometimes forget to wash their hands in an often rushed and busy clinical environment. They also welcome reminders (e.g., visual or auditory prompts, signage) which have been shown to increase hand hygiene compliance. Research has also shown that multiple techniques are needed to improve compliance, and reminders from patients are among them. Visit our section on resources and tools for more information.

CDC – Catholic Health Partners and Premier research

A recent study was done to evaluate the success of a new video developed by CDC that is designed to educate patients about hand hygiene and empower them to ask their caregiver to wash their hands. This video, Hand Hygiene Saves Lives, was evaluated in 17 Catholic Healthcare Partner (CHP) hospitals in collaboration with CDC and Premier. The results showed that the Hand Hygiene Saves Lives video appear to be a promising method for empowering patients to ask their care provider to perform hand hygiene and may improve hand hygiene adherence in healthcare settings.

hand-hygieneCDC – Hand Hygiene Resources

  • Video: Hand Hygiene Saves Lives – Patient Admission Video
    This video demonstrates how patients can approach staff about hand hygiene in a non-confrontational manner. This free, five-minute video focuses on patient and staff attitudes, and shows how patients can comfortably ask their caregiver to wash or clean their hands before providing hands-on care if they haven’t seen them do so. This patient and staff training tool is ideally suited for viewing on public healthcare broadcasting sites throughout the facility, such as lobbies or waiting rooms and is available in English and Spanish. It teaches two key points to hospital patients and visitors to help prevent infections: the importance of practicing hand hygiene while in the hospital and that it is appropriate to ask or remind their healthcare providers to practice hand hygiene as well. View CDC Video: Hand hygiene saves lives
  • May 5   Hand hygiene day
    Hand hygiene day is celebrated by the CDC, World Health Organization and other partners to encourage healthcare providers to promote and practice good hand hygiene measures to reduce the risk of infection among patients. Visit CDC website for more information on Save Lives- Clean your hands.
  • CDC Hand hygiene guideline
    Among the most comprehensive and evidence-based guidelines for hand antisepsis and hand hygiene to reduce healthcare-associated infections is the one developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), entitled: Guideline for Hand Hygiene in Healthcare Settings (2002). The guideline includes reviews of research on the efficacy of alcohol-based hand rubs and the low incidence of dermatitis associated with their use, value of multidisciplinary hand hygiene promotion programs, and role of alcohol-based hand rubs in improving hand-hygiene practices. Also covered in the guidance is the use of surgical hand antiseptics, hand lotions or creams, jewelry, gloving, and wearing of artificial fingernails. Ultimately, the CDC urges that adherence to recommended hand hygiene practices should become part of a culture of patient safety.

Tools, resources for hand hygiene

Because of the importance of hand hygiene to prevent healthcare associated infections, many organizations, including the CDC, have developed tools and resources for healthcare staff, families, and children, to help educate and promote hand hygiene. These tools include books, posters, buttons, stickers, videos, and slide programs. Visit our resource section and view a selection of tools available from a variety of public, professional, consumer, healthcare organizations and clinicians, the CDC, and the World Health Organization (WHO).