It’s clear that infection control is a critical concern for healthcare facilities. What isn’t clear is why so few facilities take an adequate approach to what the Centers for Disease control has long promoted as the best means of preventing the spread of infection: hand hygiene.
Research shows that 80% of infections are caused by touch, yet barely half of healthcare facilities have adequate adherence to hand hygiene measures, and 40% fail to keep frequently touched surfaces sufficiently clean. One California study showed a particularly strong correlation between the concerning spread of relatively “new” pathogens, such as candida auris, and a failure to keep surfaces in long-term acute care facilities clean, or to ensure effective hand washing among staff and visitors.
Create a “culture of clean hands” in your healthcare facilities
Encouraging hand washing and providing hand sanitizer is a common response to the issue of controlling infections spread by touch. It is also an inadequate response, as evidenced by persistently unacceptable rates of patient infection incurred post-admittance.
Instead of routine encouragement or standard policy pronouncements, healthcare leaders need to work hard to create an overall mindset within a facility, one that reimagines infection control as a holistic, organization-wide priority. Rather than the typically reactive stance, a proactive commitment to a “culture of clean hands” empowers healthcare organizations to prevent infections and plan for continual improvement. It should impact every part of your planning, as decision-makers ask, “Will this strategy help or hurt our infection control efforts?” And it should guide your actions, from purchasing, to cleaning procedures, to the quality and frequency of internal education and communications.
Go virtual to teach the reality of hand hygiene
Most healthcare professionals likely consider themselves well informed and conscientious – but another CDC study showed that they fail to wash their hands in half the situations that they should. While they are aware of the need for hand washing, they aren’t acting on it, so a new level of education, innovation and motivation is required.
One creative response has been to engage both the minds and imaginations of healthcare workers via virtual reality. The Tork VR Clean Hands Training and Education program takes a “gamification” approach, turning hygiene training into a fun, unique game experience. Requiring only a VR headset and a free Tork app, the game lets the user choose a role – physician or nurse – to work through a variety of real life situations in a virtual hospital setting to practice each of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) five moments for hand hygiene. It’s a more engaging, inspiring way of learning, and of elevating hand hygiene standards.
One simple solution can take on nearly two million infections
Given the startling fact that 1.7 million U.S. patients get an HCAI every year, every healthcare organization has to ask, “Are we doing enough?” Thankfully, an answer is close at hand. As the National Institute of Health puts it, an effective hand hygiene program, including proper hand washing and adequate availability of hand sanitizers, can help prevent HCAIs and save lives, reduce morbidity, and minimize healthcare costs.”
So, is your healthcare facility doing enough?