In January of this year, The Joint Commission – an independent, not-for-profit organization that accredits and certifies nearly 21,000 healthcare organizations and programs in the U.S. – included the need to implement evidence-based practices to reduce the risk of health care-associated infections (HAIs) as one of its Hospital National Patient Safety Goals.
The Joint Commission’s recommendation was based, in part, on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which states that each year, millions of people acquire infections while receiving care, treatment and services in a health care organization (HCO). The CDC Guideline for Hand Hygiene in Healthcare Settings provides healthcare providers with a review of scientific data regarding hand antisepsis and handwashing in healthcare settings; a large number of people afflicted each year has made HAIs a patient safety issue that has impacted all types of HCOs.
According to The Joint Commission report, one of the most important ways of addressing HAIs is by improving hand hygiene among health care staff. This recommendation takes on added significance when we consider HAIs that are the result of infections from multi-drug resistant organisms such as methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), in acute care hospitals. The report notes that “compliance with the World Health Organization (WHO) or CDC hand hygiene guidelines will reduce the transmission of infectious agents by staff to patients.” But, The Joint Commission takes this a step further by stating that, to ensure compliance with this National Patient Safety Goal, HCOs should evaluate their compliance with the WHO and/or CDC guidelines through a comprehensive program that includes fostering a culture of compliance monitoring and feedback, in addition to hand hygiene.
Risk of infection among patient populations varies between hospitals, so prevention and control strategies must be tailored to the specific needs of each hospital based on its risk assessment. For example, educating staff and licensed independent practitioners about HAIs and prevention strategies in those HCOs that are high risk also is important in preventing the spread of infection.
As HAIs continue to rise at an alarming rate, including drug-resistant infections, it becomes increasingly important to minimize their risk. Employing a program that fosters a culture of hand hygiene, monitoring and feedback is an absolute must to minimizing and preventing the growth of HAIs and maximizing patient safety.