Clinicians know the value of hand hygiene, but obstacles stand in the way: study

While most clinicians consider hand hygiene critical to patient safety, the environment and other factors can get in the way of high reliability, according to a new study based on a survey conducted by researchers at the Boston Children’s Hospital.

For a study published March 15 in the journal American Journal of Infection Control,, the researchers developed an electronic survey to identify barriers to hand hygiene as well as to identify actions to improve safety practices. There were 61 respondents, most of whom were doctors. Nurse practitioners and paramedics also responded.

Overall, 97 percent of respondents said that personal hand hygiene is critical to preventing healthcare-associated infections. However, research has shown that aspects of organizational culture, environment, tasks, and tools can hinder high reliability.

For example, 87 percent of respondents said that having alcohol-based hand sanitizer was very effective in increasing reliability. At the same time, 77% reported that the dispensers were “sometimes” or “often” empty. A quarter of respondents also said that the layout of patient care areas is not conducive to hand hygiene.

“Improving and maintaining hand hygiene compliance has been a longstanding and seemingly insurmountable challenge in healthcare,” Patricia Jackson, RN, president of the Association of Infection Control Professionals, said in a statement. “This study highlights opportunities to improve the reliability of hand hygiene through the effective application of engineering tools and Human Factors techniques.”

Five medical societies have recently published updated hand hygiene guidelines for the prevention of HCAI in acute care settings. Read about them here.

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