About one in five U.S. health facilities dont make alcohol-based hand sanitizer available at every point of care, missing a critical opportunity to prevent healthcare-associated infections, according to new research.
The study, which examined compliance with World Health Organization hand hygiene guidelines in the U.S., also found that only about half of the hospitals, ambulatory care and long-term care facilities had set aside funds in their budgets for hand hygiene training.
A research team jointly led by Laurie Conway, RN, MS, CIC, a PhD student at the Columbia University School of Nursing in New York, and Benedetta Allegranzi, MD, head of the WHO infection control program Clean Care is Safer Care, surveyed compliance with WHO hand hygiene guidelines at a sample of 168 facilities in 42 states and Puerto Rico.
Overall, 77.5% of facilities reported that alcohol-based sanitizer was continuously available at every point of care, the researchers reported in the March issue of the American Journal of Infection Control. About one in 10 facilities reported that senior leaders such as the CEO, medical director and director of nursing didnt make a clear commitment to support hand hygiene improvement.
When hospitals dont focus heavily on hand hygiene, that puts patients at unnecessary risk for preventable healthcare-associated infections, Conway said in a news release. The tone for compliance with infection control guidelines is set at the highest levels of management, and our study also found that executives arent always doing all that they can to send a clear message that preventing infections is a priority.
Hand hygiene is critical to preventing healthcare-associated infections, which kill about 100,000 people a year in the U.S. and cost about $33 billion to treat. The CDC issued guidelines for hand hygiene in 2002 and the WHO followed suit in 2009.
The survey also shows that facilities participating in the WHO global hand hygiene campaign achieved a higher level of progress, co-author Didier Pittet, MD, MS, director of the Infection Control Program and WHO Collaborating Center on Patient Safety at the University of Geneva Hospitals and Faculty of Medicine in Switzerland, said in the news release.
While hand hygiene compliance is the responsibility of every healthcare worker, U.S. healthcare facilities would certainly benefit from coordinated national and sub-national efforts aimed at hand hygiene improvement. They would also gather innovative ideas and trans-cultural approaches by participating in global efforts such as the WHO campaign.