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Hand hygiene can save lives

When people think of medical malpractice, they may imagine a doctor in a New York hospital ordering the wrong treatment, or a nurse giving a patient the wrong dose of medication. However, according to the American Journal of Critical Care, hospital-acquired infections are also preventable threats to patients in hospitals, particularly in intensive care units. 

An HAI may be caused by many substandard practices by hospital workers who come into contact with patients, and these infections are not rare. Data indicates that there are roughly 2.5 million annual cases in the U.S., with 90,000 of these resulting in fatalities. Neglecting proper hand-washing techniques may be among the top causes. 

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study indicates that hand hygiene appears to be directly related to HAIs. Over the course of 17 months, a hand-washing program significantly improved the rate of compliance with the CDC's defined proper hand hygiene procedures. The goal was for all hospital staff members who entered patient rooms to wash their hands when coming in and when going out every time. One of the methods was to empower everyone to encourage others to wash their hands and to observe whether they complied. This included not only doctors, nurses and specialists, but also the following:

  • Radiologists
  • Phlebotomists
  • Physical therapists
  • Medical secretaries
  • Food services staff
  • Housekeeping

Although not every type of HAI responded to the increase in hand-washing compliance, the overall rates of HAI went down 6 percent. This was linked to a 10 percent improvement in hand washing. After the study was completed, the hospital reported nearly 200 fewer HAIs and 22 fewer fatalities. 

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