WHO calls for improvement in US hospitals’ hand hygiene practices

Further improvement of hand hygiene practices in US hospitals is needed, according to new research from WHO and the Columbia University School of Nursing.

Benedetta Allegranzi, MD, of the WHO patient safety program, and colleagues invited 2,238 US hospitals to complete an online survey about hand hygiene in their facilities. Of the 168 facilities that responded, 129 fully completed the survey and were included in the study.

Overall, 77.5% of participants said alcohol-based hand rub was continuously available throughout their facility. About 84% of facilities conduct annual mandatory training that states hand hygiene is required of all health care workers. Fifty-eight percent have an established hand hygiene team. Half of facilities reported having a budget dedicated to hand hygiene.

Most facilities said executive leaders such as CEO, medical director and director of nursing made a commitment to support hand hygiene improvement. About 86% of facilities reportedly inform patients about the importance of hand hygiene. Fewer than half of all facilities have an established plan for participation in WHO’s Save Lives: Clean Your Hands initiative.

The researchers commented that their results may be skewed due to a low response rate and the nature of the study. More compliant hospitals may be more likely to participate, indicating a possible reporting bias.

Overall, there is room for improvement among US hospitals’ hand hygiene practices.

“When hospitals don’t focus heavily on hand hygiene, that puts patients at an unnecessary risk for preventable health care-associated infections,” study researcher Laurie Conway, RN, MS, CIC, a PhD student at Columbia University School of Nursing, said in a press release. “The tone for compliance with infection control guidelines is set at the highest levels of management, and our study also found that executives aren’t always doing all that they can to send a clear message that preventing infections is a priority.”

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.