A recent survey found that infection preventionists are expressing a need for updated technology and processes to help fight healthcare-associated infections (HAIs). The survey asked 650 infection preventionists and clinicians on the biggest challenges associated with infection prevention. Over half (51 percent) of respondents said the lack of adopting new technology and processes, along with insufficient support from senior leadership, are a large barrier to preventing infections.
With more advanced and user-friendly technology, the world of healthcare has a new set of tools to help fight against HAIs. Identified as the single most important factor for preventing HAIs by the World Health Organization (WHO), hand hygiene is critical for limiting the spread of infection. Today’s hygiene electronic monitoring systems have the ability to capture close to 100 percent of all hand hygiene events, and are not subject to human error like badge-based or self-reporting systems.
Despite the importance of hand hygiene, and wealth of evidence to support its role in limiting infection, compliance among healthcare workers remains low. With modern technology easily accessible, why are so many healthcare environments lacking the hand hygiene tools that could help prevent HAIs?
Implementing a new infection prevention and hand hygiene compliance system can be costly. Hand hygiene product budgets vary for each institution, but budget constraints are common. Typically, hospitals are organized by departments, and each department has its own budget. Additionally, annual operating budgets make it difficult for departments to invest in new, innovative technologies.
Another obstacle comes from senior leaders not seeing the day-to-day impact of HAIs, unlike infection preventionists. Top challenges for the healthcare industry range far and wide, such as investing in artificial intelligence (AI) and better preparing for natural disasters. While HAIs are one of the most important issues healthcare systems face today, they often don’t make the list. With so many issues to tackle, it can be difficult for hospitals to make the argument for investing in new infection prevention technology, especially when there are already hand hygiene compliance protocols in place.
According to the survey, 50 percent of infection preventionists believe that there is poor compliance with current infection prevention protocols. A study published in The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety narrowed down the top 24 issues attributed to hand hygiene noncompliance, which include:
- Healthcare workers forgetting
- Inconveniently placed soap dispenser or sink
- Broken dispenser or sink
- Empty soap dispenser
- Healthcare workers getting distracted
- Ineffective education
Ensuring soap dispensers are properly working and filled is crucial to keeping busy healthcare workers’ hands clean. Additionally, hand washing stations should be conveniently placed so that workers can access them quickly and in between patient visits. Ongoing education can ensure all healthcare workers understand the dangers of missing even a single hand hygiene moment.
While budgets may hinder introducing new hand hygiene technologies, the benefits outweigh the cost. Some of today’s systems, such as DebMed’s Electronic Hand Hygiene Compliance System, tracks compliance rates based on the WHO’s “5 Moments” and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hand hygiene standards. These systems can reliably predict the expected number of hand hygiene opportunities for individual units or facilities, creating a safer environment for patients, families, staff and visitors.
When hospitals develop specific interventions to improve hand hygiene compliance, compliance rates improve. To continue increasing hand hygiene compliance rates and limiting HAIs, it’s vital for hospitals to not only develop critical hand hygiene protocols, but enforce them on a regular basis.
A recent case study tells the story of a US health system that has achieved substantial improvements in hand hygiene compliance and reductions in HAI's since incorporating an electronic hand hygiene compliance monitoring system into their multi-modal infection prevention strategy. Download the case study to learn more