Hand-washing temporarily spiked during pandemic, Chicago hospital finds

Hand hygiene compliance among healthcare workers at the University of Chicago Medical Center soared early in the pandemic, but fell back to pre-pandemic levels after just four months, according to a study published April 26 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

The medical center uses an automated hand hygiene monitoring system that tracks how often staff wash their hands or use sanitizer when entering and exiting a patient's room. Researchers analyzed compliance trends at the hospital from September 2019 to August 2020.

In September 2019, baseline monthly compliance was 54.5 percent across all units, a standard figure for the hospital. During the pandemic, monthly compliance peaked at 75.5 percent across all units and 84.4 percent for all units that were temporarily converted into COVID-19 units.

Hand hygiene compliance hit a daily peak of 92.8 percent across all hospital units on March 29, 2020, and hit 100 percent across all COVID-19 units March 28, 2020. However, by August 2020, monthly compliance had dropped back to 56 percent, researchers found. 

Various factors may have contributed to the jump in compliance, including staff members' increased awareness of the importance of hand-washing during the pandemic and more remote rounding by clinicians. 

"As hospitals set hand hygiene goals, this study suggests high compliance is possible, even with automated monitoring, yet difficult to sustain," researchers said. "The recent decline in compliance should be a clarion call to hospitals currently experiencing COVID-19 surges."

To view the full study, click here.

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