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DebMed Blog: Healthcare Hygiene Matters

Hospital Floors, Pathogens and the Five-Second Rule

Posted by Emily Weaner on Aug 16, 2018 9:30:00 AM

Preventable healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) sicken an estimated 721,800 Americans annually and cost as many as 75,000 patients their lives. With roughly one-in-25 hospital patients contracting an HAI every day, these infections are one of the most serious, yet preventable threats to patient safety in healthcare facilities. It’s no wonder then, that hospital cleaning procedures and practices are a top concern among healthcare institutions.

Hospital Room - Single

Infection prevention measures within healthcare facilities typically focus on disinfecting surfaces frequently touched by hands, such as elevator buttons, door handles, countertops, public restrooms and more. However, new information suggests there may be a gap in infection prevention measures within healthcare facilities – the floors.


Environmental Services professionals have typically paid less attention to the disinfection of floors because they are not frequently touched by hands. However, a study published in the March 2017 issue of the American Journal of Infection Control (AJIC) suggests hospital room floors may be an overlooked source of infection spread and contamination in healthcare facilities.


The study found that hospital patient room floors in five Cleveland-area hospitals were often contaminated with MRSA, VRE, and C. diff - with C. diff being the most frequently recovered pathogen found. But why does this matter? Because when items within the patient’s room come into contact with the hospital floor (such as dropped cell phones, call buttons, etc.), pathogens on that floor can easily transfer to hands when they are picked up.


But how often does this really happen? More than you think.


Of the 100 occupied rooms surveyed in the AJIC study, 41 percent had one or more high-touch objects that came in contact with the floor. These included personal items, medical devices and medical supplies (cell phones, blood pressure cuffs, call buttons) that had fallen on the floor and were picked up by patients or hospital staff, resulting in the transfer of pathogens to hands and onto other high-touch surfaces throughout the room.


So what can environmental service professionals, healthcare workers, visitors and patients do? On top of effective hand hygiene compliance measures, here are some additional suggestions:



  • Healthcare workers have frequent access to hand hygiene stations, but be sure hand sanitizer dispensers are centrally located in waiting rooms, hallways, common areas and other locations where hospital visitors pass through to encourage frequent use.


  • Train employees that when items come into contact with the floor they should be treated as contaminated – this includes personal cell phones, beepers, pens, etc.


  • Encourage hospital visitors to keep their feet on the floor. Signs and reminders in waiting rooms or patient rooms can help guard against visitors placing their feet on hospital beds, guest room chairs or even in their lap, as shoes can carry pathogens to and from patient rooms. This could also extend to hospital staffers who may be tempted to put their feet up during breaks due to long hours.


For more information on how to implement an effective hand hygiene program at your healthcare facility, visit www.debmed.com.


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Topics: HAIs, Surface Cleaning

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The DebMed blog is the go-to source for hand hygiene and infection prevention related discussions occurring in the healthcare industry. Join the conversation! All readers are invited to comment, share stories and information, and post articles of interest.

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