The Mölnlycke Health Care blog
All hands on deck – The patient role in infection control
Ample evidence exists to support the assertion that hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) are a threat to patient safety. Hospitals and hospital staffs introduce programs and initiatives that cover virtually every aspect of infection control to stem the incidence of HAIs. This includes considerable focus on hand hygiene, one of the most basic but important aspects of infection prevention. These efforts are supported by healthcare organizations and companies – most notably the World Health Organisation's (WHO) "Clean care is safer care" campaign (external link, opens in a new window), now in its tenth year.
And what does WHO's campaign come down to? Basic hygiene.
Healthcare workers, caregivers and supporting organizations understand the basics and implement hand hygiene tactics in their daily work. But what role does the patient play in ensuring adequate infection control? As a recent piece at InfectionControl.tips argues (external link, opens in a new window): "Patient hand hygiene practices have been largely overlooked in infection prevention within hospitals." Most current practice and attention is focused on hand hygiene among staff, including WHO guidelines on when to wash (The WHO's "moments" for hand hygiene (external link, opens in a new window)). But the patient is absent from the equation – and this can have major consequences.
It should be common sense that patients continue to practice good hand hygiene once they are admitted to a hospital, but several recent studies show that patient hand-washing practice becomes considerably less frequent in the hospital versus when a patient is at home. The difference in hand-washing compliance is often a staggering 20 percent, according to an interview-based study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. (external link, opens in a new window)
The patient is as much a part of the hospital's infection control ecosystem as staff are and as such should be educated and made aware of hand hygiene and its importance. Hospitals can easily and actively promote patient hand hygiene by introducing hand-hygiene education and risk awareness and by making hand hygiene easy and accessible for patients. Part of making this endeavour successful is building awareness around "hand hygiene moments for patients".
Everyone in the ecosystem has a role to play in ensuring good, consistent hand hygiene and the prevention of infections in hospital settings. In the battle against hospital-acquired infections, it’s an all hands on deck situation.