Patients Can 'Be The Difference' in Hand Hygiene Efforts

When it comes to lapses in hand hygiene protocol, the contaminated fingers are often pointed at healthcare professionals.

Some of this accusation is warranted. In a recent study in the American Journal of Infection Control, anesthesia providers documented hand hygiene compliance at only 2.9 percent.

But while healthcare providers should be taking the lead on hand hygiene compliance initiatives, patients also play a critical role in helping prevent infections by following the same principles and guidelines.

The patients' role
Even though patients are coming to healthcare facilities to be treated, they still have a responsibility to adhere to hand hygiene and infection control efforts. That responsibility extends to their visitors as well.

"Historically, there's been a fairly high focus on staff hygiene and making sure they follow the protocol a given hospital might have in place," says Joe DeBelle, director of marketing at PDI Healthcare, an infection prevention solutions provider. "We find, though, that not only the patients play a role. Visitors can also help the overall effect of a hand hygiene program designed to reduce the transmission of healthcare associated infections."

Ensuring and encouraging hand hygiene among patients and visitors isn't all that different from ensuring and encouraging hand hygiene compliance among clinicians. The issue, Mr. DeBelle says, largely boils down to education and communication.

To help encourage proper hand hygiene behavior among patients and visitors, PDI developed a video that staff can show patients to increase the focus on hand hygiene and explain how patients can take an active role in their healthcare. "In the video, we tell patients to ask their healthcare professional for more information on how to prevent the spread of germs through effective hand hygiene during their hospital stay," Mr. DeBelle says. "We encourage the patient to become actively engaged with their caregivers." Additionally, PDI has incorporated education on the packaging. These educational icons are in place to help ensure that the patients understand the key moment to sanitize their hands throughout each day.

What's more, patients should also feel empowered to remind clinicians to wash their hands and follow the same basic protocols. This teamwork-centered mindset is a powerful motivator to help ensure all parties are fully engaged with hand hygiene programs.

"We're asking the patients to take a very active role," Mr. DeBelle says. "They're the ones being treated, and we're asking them to help us as a partner with the healthcare professionals to stop the spread of infection. It's about maintaining good hand hygiene and preventing infections together."

The right product at the right time
Education on proper hand hygiene compliance can only go so far if necessary tools are missing. Patients or clinicians may know they should wash their hands at certain points, but if they don't have the proper resources to do so, it is a lost opportunity to adhere to protocols.

"There are more areas where people are looking to have access to hand hygiene solutions," Mr. DeBelle says. "Dispensers on the wall help, but in a dynamic acute-care setting where people are moving quickly, that's not always an option."

For example, bedbound patients require different hand hygiene solutions and resources than mobile patients, Mr. DeBelle says. Wall dispensers are going to be less useful for bedbound patients who cannot get out of bed to clean their hands. These patients would benefit from a bedside or individual hand hygiene solution. Patients who are mobile and connected to a piece of equipment are also going to have different needs.

To help overcome these challenges, PDI has developed various offerings to ensure patients have access to hand hygiene solutions, such as the Sani-Hands® Bedside Pack and Sani-Hands® individual packets. "Accessibility is key," Mr. DeBelle says. "The more you're able to provide convenience, availability and ease of use for the patient, the more you will be on the right path for optimal hand hygiene."

Increasing HCAHPS scores
Providing patients with access to hand hygiene resources and empowering them to encourage healthcare professionals to adhere to guidelines doesn't just reduce the transmission of pathogens. Patient satisfaction scores may be directly influenced if patients perceive hand hygiene to be an integral part of an overall culture of safety in the hospital.

Mr. DeBelle says this link to patient satisfaction is tied to patients having the right type of products in different settings. PDI conducted a study in which 94 percent of patients reported cleaning their hands more frequently when they had convenient access to hand hygiene resources, and 100 percent of respondents said their hands felt clean after using them. "Traditional soap and water provide limited accessibility, given the need to be near a sink and have soap at your disposal. Having products accessible to frequently clean their hands can lead to greater patient satisfaction," Mr. DeBelle says.

Teamwork, awareness and education are the three elements at the crux of the hand hygiene issue, and Mr. DeBelle says working together on the pursuit of compliance and offering patients the adequate resources moves the team one step closer to increased patient satisfaction.

"Our tagline at PDI is 'Be the difference,'" Mr. DeBelle says. "However, it's more than our tagline. It's our shared passion to fight preventable infections and help save lives. At PDI, each of us understands what we accomplish together can make all the difference in the world. We never forget who we're all working for."

More Articles on Hand Hygiene:

Study: National Hand Hygiene Initiative Successfully Reduces Healthcare-Associated Staphylococcus aureus Bloodstream Infections
10 Expert-Recommended Hand Hygiene Practices
Proper Hand Hygiene Allows for Safe Clinical Use of Smartphones

 

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