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Protecting Patients with the 5 Moments of Hand Hygiene

November 13, 2018



Within the world of healthcare, the term “5 Moments” holds significant meaning. As the preferred method of hand hygiene monitoring, The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends the 5 Moments of Hand Hygiene to track hand hygiene performance of healthcare workers. From entering and exiting a patient’s room, there are five critical moments that hand hygiene should be performed to ensure the health and safety of patients and staff members.


Yet, many healthcare professionals attempt to streamline the hand hygiene process to get from patient to patient more quickly. With busy schedules and long shifts, healthcare professionals often miss out on key moments to prevent HAIs and promote health by only washing their hands before and after caring for a patient. This method, otherwise known as the “in and out method,” means healthcare workers only meet two of the five critical hand hygiene moments, putting the health of patients, staff and visitors at risk.


Double the Trouble


Using the “in and out method” enhances the risk of contamination at critical moments of patient care. Hand hygiene is the single most effective intervention for reducing the risk of HAIs. By reducing the number of times hand hygiene takes place, the risk of spreading HAIs drastically increases.

According to the WHO, there are over 1.4 million cases of HAIs at any given time and account for 80,000 fatalities each year in the U.S. alone. Across all healthcare settings, bloodstream infections, surgical site infections, chest and respiratory infections and gastrointestinal infections can infect patients due to inadequate hand hygiene. Even “clean” procedures, like taking a patient’s pulse or temperature, can contaminate a staff’s hands.


Common microbes that spread due to lapses in hand hygiene range from Staphylococcus aureus (including MRSA), vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (CRE), clostridium difficile, norovirus and more. These microbes can survive on hands for hours if not cleaned properly, making hands the ultimate vehicle to spread germs.


Utilizing the 5 Moments


The 5 Moments of Hand Hygiene list important moments for a healthcare worker to wash their hands, including:


  1. Cleaning hands before touching a patient

Before entering a patient’s room, healthcare workers must wash their hands to remove any potential pathogens that were picked up from previous patients. Even if the healthcare worker does not touch the patient directly, they may encounter a patient’s clothing or personal objects with harmful microorganisms. 


  1. Cleaning hands before a procedure

From taking vitals to prepping a patient for surgery, healthcare providers must clean their hands to reduce the spread of infection during this critical time. When patients are highly suitable to infection, performing hand hygiene before coming in contact with the patient is essential.


  1. Cleaning hands after a procedure or exposure to bodily fluids

To protect both staff and patient, it’s important to wash hands after coming in contact with blood, saliva, tears, urine and other bodily fluids.


  1. Cleaning hands after touching a patient directly

After caring for a patient, healthcare workers should wash their hands no matter how much or little contact they had with the patient. Removing microorganisms picked up from one patient reduces the chances of spreading infection to other patients.


  1. Cleaning hands after touching a patients surroundings

After touching any of the patient’s immediate surroundings, such as the bed rail, bed linens or IV stand, healthcare providers should wash their hands.


According to a recent study, moments two and three – before procedures and after body fluid exposure – involve a greater chance of contamination. These “riskier” moments were found to be the most missed “inside room” hand hygiene opportunities.  


Finding a Method that Works


As influential and well-known as the WHO’s 5 Moments, healthcare organizations must find a way to ensure all staff understand when to wash and/or sanitize hands and follow through on those hand hygiene opportunities.


Some hospitals rely on a badge system while others perform regular hand hygiene educational sessions. However, leaving the sole responsibility of hand hygiene in the hands of healthcare workers may not suffice, as there’s often no way to track, record or report on hand hygiene compliance with these methods.


DebMed’s Electronic Hand Hygiene Compliance System captures 100 percent of all hand hygiene events and opportunities. Based on the WHO’s 5 Moments and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) hand hygiene standards, the research-based and badge-free system tracks compliance and provides actionable feedback for healthcare organizations.


Learn More About Electronic Monitoring 




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