Hand hygiene: Why patient engagement is so important

Jul 7, 2016 | News

As health care professionals, we know hand hygiene is a key component in preventing hospital transmission of antibiotic resistant organisms (AROs) – but what about our patients?

Hand hygiene: Why patient engagement is so important

Many patients, for reasons of immobility or incapacity, are often incapable of performing hand hygiene independently, or are unable to use alcohol-based hand rub (ABHR) or soap and water.
Patients rely on health care workers to encourage and assist with their hand hygiene.

The dynamics of direct and indirect contact within the health care environment affirms that patients’ hands are an important vehicle in the spread of bacteria -- yet they continue to receive little attention.

It’s time to change that!

What’s stopping us

The following elements have previous been cited as potential challenges to engaging with a patient about their hand hygiene:

Workload: Health care workers are busy. Adding one more thing to an already full plate can be seen as a significant barrier to success. You might be interested to know that when tested, the distribution of pre-meal hand wipes on a 25-patient unit took no longer than five minutes to distribute (and in most cases, less time than this).

Timing: Not unlike medication rounds, when something needs to be done at a specific time, the logistics of getting that timing right every time can be nerve wracking. Assigning staff to be responsible for distributing wipes to specific patients or having the Unit Coordinator announce over the unit intercom when the meal trays arrive to remind staff of patients needing to practice hand hygiene are just two possible solutions to address this challenge – feel free to brainstorm more!

Budget: Budget: When it comes to implementing a patient hand hygiene program, budget should be considered but hopefully won't be an issue. Hand wipes are quite reasonably priced; somewhere in the ballpark of $6.50 for 135-wipe canister. That means that to run a 4-week introductory pilot for 25 patients, using four wipes/patient/day, you would require ~18 canisters or an investment of $117.

What gains are possible?

  • Improved relationships created between the care provider and the patient.
  • Increasing a patient’s understanding of the importance of hand hygiene and their own health and safety.
  • A more engaged team of care providers, stakeholders and the leadership on the unit.
  • Decreased transmission of AROs.

So let’s tap into this potential to up the prominence of patient hand hygiene as a component of our organizations’ hand hygiene program. It could be the start of an incredibly worthwhile initiative to increase patients’ involvement in their personal care and hygiene! 

Quality & Safety

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