By SC Johnson Professional

May 5 is the World Health Organization’s (WHO) World Hand Hygiene Day, which is a global call for all healthcare workers to improve hand hygiene practices and provide cleaner care to patients. According to the CDC, at least one out of every 31 patients experiences a healthcare-acquired infection (HAI) on any given day[1]. HAIs lead to increased morbidity rates and higher costs for healthcare facilities. A 2013 study in the Journal of Medical Economics found that the economic burden of HAIs in acute care hospitals range from $96–$147 billion annually from direct and indirect costs[2]. With better hand hygiene practices, healthcare institutions can reduce the spread and impact of HAIs.

According to the WHO most HAIs are spread from microbes from the hands of healthcare professionals to patients[3]. The WHO recommends that all healthcare professionals perform hand hygiene before touching patients and before executing a clean or aseptic procedure. This is especially important for nurses, who generally operate on the frontlines in healthcare facilities, or midwives, who are providing the first level of care for expectant mothers. The WHO also recommends handwashing after touching a patient, a patient’s surroundings, and after exposure to a patient’s bodily fluids.

After encountering one of these contact points, healthcare workers should use the “handrub” method if hands are not visibly soiled and the full “handwash” method if hands are visibly dirty. Hand rubbing requires applying a palmful of alcohol-based hand-cleaner to both hands, rubbing hands palm-to-palm and then interlacing fingers together for 20-30 seconds. If hands are visibly dirty, then healthcare professionals should go through a full handwash with soap and water. Wet hands, apply soap and rub hands palm-to-palm with fingers interlaced before drying hands completely. If possible, use a towel to turn off the faucet. The entire process should take 40 – 60 seconds.

With hand hygiene playing such an essential role in preventing the spread of germs and saving hospitals money by reducing HAIs, it’s important to follow the suggested handwashing procedures. There are many ways to improve hand hygiene in the healthcare system. For example, SC Johnson Professional’s Deb Med Electronic Hand Hygiene Monitoring System has been clinically proven to decrease hospital onset HAI rates (MRSA and C.Diff[4]) by 42%[5]. The system achieves this by delivering accurate compliance rates based on the WHO 5-Moments, Canadian 4-Moments for Hand Hygiene, and CDC Guidelines.

Incorporating these practices into healthcare facilities can improve the overall quality of care that patients and their families receive. By practicing better hand hygiene, nurses, midwives and other healthcare professionals can keep their patients safe at every contact point.

[1] CDC 2018

[2] Albert Marchetti & Richard Rossiter (2013) Economic burden of healthcare-associated infection in US acute care hospitals: societal perspective, Journal of Medical Economics, 16:12, 1399-1404, DOI: 10.3111/13696998.2013.842922

[3] WHO 2020

[4] Robinson, N, Boeker. S, Steed, C, Kelly, W. Innovative Use of Electronic Hand Hygiene Monitoring to Control a Clostridium Difficile Cluster on a Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplant Unit. Am J Infect Control. June 2014, Vol 42(6):S150.

[5]  Kelly, J. W., MD, Blackhurst, D., DrPH, McAtee, W., BS, & Steed, C., MSN, RN, CIC. (2016, June 23). Electronic hand hygiene monitoring as a tool for reducing health care–associated methicillin- resistant Staphylococcus aureus infection. American Journal of Infection Control.