Hand hygiene compliance helps hospitals reduce infections


Taking into consideration the statistics on hospital-acquired infections (HAIs), it’s no wonder that the health care industry is looking for simple and cost-effective ways to reduce the number of these infections. According to the Centers for Disease Control, proper hand hygiene is the single most effective method for preventing HAIs. And that’s where Ecolab Inc., a global provider of cleaning, sanitizing, food safety, and infection control products and services, steps in with its recently announced Hand Hygiene Monitoring Compliance Program.

The Minnesota-based company’s program for hospitals and health care facilities is intended to provide an intervening approach that combines appropriate hand hygiene products, a step-by-step implementation process, patient empowerment education and training materials, ongoing measurement, and benchmarking to increase and sustain hand hygiene compliance.

Ecolab has partnered with Dr. Maryanne McGuckin, a leading authority in the measurement of hand hygiene compliance, for the design of the program, baseline measurement, and ongoing reporting analysis services.

“Comprehensive hand hygiene compliance monitoring programs like that created by Ecolab enable health care facilities of all sizes to assess compliance rates at their facility and help meet the guidelines and recommendations for improving patient safety set by the Joint Commission (JC) and World Health Organization,” explains McGuckin.

Studies show that improved hand hygiene compliance and the associated reduction in HAI rates lower hospital operating costs. According to data from the Pennsylvania Hospital Cost Containment Council, the average hospital charge without an HAI is nearly six times less ($31,389) than for patients who experienced HAI ($185,260).

“Simply put, proper hand hygiene enables hospitals to provide better patient care and to reduce costs,” says Tim Mulhere, vice president and general manager of health care at Ecolab. “The Ecolab Hand Hygiene Compliance Monitoring Program provides all the tools and resources hospitals need to drive hand hygiene compliance and reduce health care-associated infections.”

Elements of the program

Patient empowerment. These programs increase awareness of the importance of hand hygiene and encourage patients and their families to ask their health care provider to wash or sanitize their hands prior to any direct contact. Ecolab has developed a complete set of materials, including brochures, posters, buttons, and a video (under a program entitled “It’s OK To Ask”), that encourages patients to actively participate in their care. According to recent studies (1999-2006) in the American Journal of Infection Control and Journal of Hospital Infection Control, patient empowerment and measurement have been shown to increase and sustain compliance on average 56 percent.

Measurement. Measurement of compliance data establishes an accurate, current baseline compliance rate against which progress can be tracked. Ongoing measurement and reporting further supports compliance by enabling hospitals to objectively measure the progress of programs and promote improvements.

Benchmarking. Confidential reporting of data and analysis helps hospitals to validate their hand hygiene programs as they grow. In addition, ongoing compliance can be compared against data from similar sized hospitals and units including in-patient/out-patient sites from acute care, pediatrics, ER, ICU, and non-ICU.

Editor’s Note: For more information on other current measures being taken to promote hospital infection control, see “New Approaches to Infection Control in Hospitals” on page 44.