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September 14, 2023 | 6 minute

The Impact of Hand Hygiene on Infection Control in Hospitals

In the fast-paced, technologically advanced world of modern healthcare, it’s easy to overlook the simplest yet most critical practice: maintaining hand hygiene in hospitals. While cutting-edge machines, robotics, and software have revolutionized many aspects of healthcare, the act of washing one’s hands remains as essential as ever.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the profound impact of hand hygiene on infection control in hospitals, drawing insights from a whitepaper by Kontakt.io. We’ll also delve into how digital solutions, like Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS), are transforming hand hygiene compliance and delivering tangible benefits to healthcare facilities.

The Significance of Hand Hygiene in Healthcare

Hand hygiene is undeniably one of the most vital aspects of healthcare workflows. Its impact extends to several critical indicators, making it a linchpin for infection control and overall patient care. Let’s delve into some of the key reasons why hand hygiene is paramount:

1. Reduced Hospital-Acquired Infections (HAIs)

Hospital-Acquired Infections (HAIs) are a major concern in healthcare, costing the industry billions of dollars annually. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 20% of HAIs can be attributed to inadequate hand hygiene practices. Improved hand hygiene can significantly reduce the incidence of HAIs, leading to substantial cost savings.

2. Patient Safety

Proper hand hygiene plays a pivotal role in creating a culture of compliance within healthcare settings. HAIs can be particularly dangerous for patients with compromised immune systems. Healthcare workers who adhere to hand hygiene protocols help protect vulnerable patients from infections, contributing to their safety.

3. Enhanced Patient Outcomes

Effective hand hygiene positively impacts patient outcomes. Patients are less likely to develop healthcare-associated infections when healthcare workers practice proper hand hygiene. This leads to shorter hospital stays, fewer complications, and improved overall outcomes.

4. Prevention of Infection Spread

Healthcare facilities are teeming with microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Inadequate hand hygiene by healthcare workers can facilitate the spread of these microorganisms to other patients, elevating the risk of healthcare-associated infections.

5. A Cleaner, Sterile Environment

Maintaining a clean and hygienic environment is crucial to prevent infection spread in healthcare settings. Proper hand hygiene is an integral part of preserving a safe and sterile environment.

6. Cost Savings

The financial investment required for hand hygiene is minimal compared to the problems it helps prevent. An average 200-bed hospital could save approximately $1.2 million annually by improving hand hygiene workflows.

Despite the undeniable benefits, universal hand hygiene compliance remains a challenge in healthcare. Let’s explore some common barriers that hinder its implementation and maintenance.

Barriers to Hand Hygiene Compliance

Several factors contribute to the difficulty of achieving and sustaining hand hygiene compliance in healthcare facilities:

1. Lack of Time

Healthcare workers often have busy schedules, leaving them with limited time for frequent handwashing. High workloads and multiple patient interactions can make it challenging for them to prioritize hand hygiene.

2. Lack of Awareness

Some healthcare workers may not fully grasp the importance of hand hygiene or may lack knowledge of proper handwashing techniques. Educating staff about the significance of hand hygiene is essential.

3. Resistance to Change

Established routines and practices can be resistant to change. Some healthcare workers may be reluctant to alter their hand hygiene habits, even if new protocols are introduced.

4. Inconvenient Dispenser Placement

In large healthcare facilities, it can be challenging to position hand sanitizer dispensers conveniently for all staff members, leading to inconsistent use.

5. Broken or Empty Dispensers

Dispensers are prone to wear and tear, and some may run out of sanitizer before scheduled refills. These issues can deter healthcare workers from practicing proper hand hygiene.

6. Enforcing Compliance

Ensuring that hundreds of staff members follow hand hygiene rules is a formidable challenge, particularly when monitoring and tracking compliance is manual.

Addressing these barriers requires a solution that provides guidance without disrupting daily tasks, offers reminders without hindrance, and tracks activities in a digital twin of the work environment. This is where digital transformation steps in.

Digital Solutions for Improving Hand Hygiene Compliance

The first step towards enhancing hand hygiene compliance is collecting baseline data. Traditionally, this involved manual observations by “Secret Shoppers,” which were prone to errors and limited in scope. Modern solutions leverage Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS) to automate data collection and reporting.

RTLS systems employ small, wearable tags and badges equipped with Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) or other radio frequency technology to track the location and movements of healthcare staff. These systems can record hand hygiene events, providing data on when and where they occur.

However, RTLS alone is insufficient to drive sustained hand hygiene compliance. Behavioral change is essential, and this is where Hand Hygiene Digital Solutions make a significant impact.

Driving Behavioral Change with Hand Hygiene Digital Solutions

These solutions leverage accurate data from RTLS platforms and adopt a three-pronged approach to ensure lasting improvements in hand hygiene:

  • Dispenser Health and Positioning: Beyond monitoring behavior, these solutions focus on maintaining the condition of hand hygiene dispensers. Modern dispensers can perform self-checks to assess battery life, mechanical functionality, and refill levels. This proactive approach minimizes downtime and optimizes dispenser placement, reducing unnecessary walking for healthcare workers.
  • Gamification: Making hand hygiene fun can encourage compliance. By introducing elements of competition, individuals are motivated to maintain good hygiene practices. This approach leverages the “network effect,” where individuals are more likely to adopt habits when their peers do the same.
  • Data-Driven Insights: Utilizing the rich data from RTLS, digital solutions empower healthcare facilities to educate staff, review progress, and provide individualized feedback. Data-driven insights help in sustaining high performance over the long term.

In conclusion, hand hygiene is a fundamental practice that can significantly impact infection control in hospitals. Despite its simplicity, various barriers hinder compliance. Leveraging digital solutions, like RTLS and Hand Hygiene Digital Solutions, can not only automate data collection but also drive lasting behavioral change among healthcare workers. By addressing these challenges, healthcare facilities can reduce the incidence of HAIs, improve patient safety and outcomes, and ultimately save lives and resources. Hand hygiene may be a basic practice, but it remains an essential one in the ever-evolving world of healthcare.

Kontakt.io for Hand Hygiene Monitoring and Compliance

As a leader in Inpatient Journey Analytics, Kontakt.io’s hand hygiene solution is based on proven technology and a creative approach to the challenges that face the healthcare industry. RTLS deployments from Kontakt.io are already helping health systems of all sizes by providing location insights that:

  • Optimize workflows
  • Enhance staff and patient security
  • Track valuable assets
  • Restrict and document access to sensitive areas
  • Drive better patient outcomes

To learn more about how digital solutions can improve hand hygiene compliance in your healthcare, download the free whitepaper today.

DOWNLOAD THE WHITEPAPER