Hospitals Crack Down on Hand Hygiene

Physician's Money Digest, November 2007, Volume 14, Issue 11

According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, hospital infections cause 90,000 deaths annually. With such a monster of a number looming over the medical community, more and more hospitals are adopting aggressive hand-hygiene surveillance and monitoring programs to stop the spread of bacteria on contaminated hands— some are even imposing penalties on medical staff who are not following the rules. The Journal reports that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), and two other leading infection control professional societies are collaborating on a program using behavior-modification techniques and guidelines to monitor and increase compliance. But despite strict guidelines issued by the CDC, including the wide adoption of alcohol-based handrub dispensers in patient rooms and hospital corridors, compliance rates remain stuck at 40% to 50%. The IHI recommends a program that holds hospital administrators and staffers responsible for noncompliance in their facility, which has led to various strategies, such as hand-hygiene compliance becoming a part of hospital performance evaluations.