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Changing the Culture of Hand Hygiene

October 16, 2018



Making a change in an established routine isn’t easy, especially when it comes to breaking a bad habit. In the world of healthcare, hand hygiene is essential to patient safety, and yet healthcare organizations struggle with compliance. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), healthcare providers clean their hands less than half of the times they should. The CDC also reports that about one in 25 patients acquires a healthcare-associated infection (HAI) during their hospital stay.


With the kickoff of International Infection Prevention Week, and this year’s theme of “Protecting Patients Everywhere,” it’s important to take a closer look at how healthcare organizations can improve hand hygiene performance by not only educating their staff, but committing to a cultural change.


 Establishing a New Hand Hygiene Culture


Healthcare workers strive to do the right thing and avoid harming patients. However, without a positive hand hygiene culture, compliance remains low and puts patient health at risk. While each day varies, healthcare professionals quickly establish certain routines, including how often they wash their hands throughout the day. Based on the World Health Organization’s “5 Moments,” healthcare professionals should wash their hands:


  1. Before touching a patient
  2. Before any procedure
  3. After bodily fluid exposure
  4. After touching a patient
  5. After touching a patient’s surroundings


While most healthcare workers remember moments one (before patient contact) and five (after touching patient surroundings), they often forget the others, increasing the risk of spreading infection. Having a list of when to wash your hands is a helpful tool, but without expecting behavioral change from staff, it won’t create impactful results. To help the world of healthcare adapt to a changing culture, consider the following strategies:


  • Provide regular feedback. Since germs are invisible, healthcare workers often touch dry, seemingly-harmless objects like a patient’s bed rail or pull the privacy curtain without registering the transmission risk. It’s important for staff to understand the many moments and opportunities for hand hygiene and to receive consistent, real-time feedback on their performance to shift culture in the right direction.
  • Keep staff accountable. Staff must understand their responsibilities and what they are accountable for, so it’s important to align hand hygiene expectations between staff and management.
  • Communicate change. Once hand hygiene goals have been set, communicating the purpose of this change, in addition to when and why staff are taking part in it, will help everyone embrace the changes and challenges ahead.
  •  Leverage technology: Hospitals have a limited about of resources for hand hygiene auditing and as a result the sample size is small and can represents as little as 1-3 percent (typically less than 0.5 percent) of all hand hygiene opportunities. That’s why it’s critical to find a hand hygiene compliance system that accurately collects hand hygiene events and allows your hospital to shift precious resources from counting hand hygiene events to coaching for performance. The real-time data from electronic compliance systems provides you with the real-time data you need, to execute all of the above strategies.


DebMed’s Electronic Hand Hygiene Compliance System takes a different approach to hand hygiene compliance, measuring total team performance based on WHO 5 Moments for hand hygiene (not just room entry and exit) and supporting a blame-free just culture of collaboration, as recommended by AHRQ. This cost-effective solution offers near real-time data that provides true compliance rates and can inspire lasting behavior change.


To learn more about how you can create lasting hand hygiene improvements and drive culture change at YOUR hospital, make sure to sign up for our upcoming webinar on Thursday, Nov. 1, with key infection prevention thought leader – Connie Steed. In addition to discussing ways to improve hand hygiene compliance and inspire culture change, Steed will share insights on using the electronic monitoring system and the benefits of reporting results to staff. This webinar is filling up and we suggest that you act fast to reserve your virtual "seat".







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