Patient safety breakdowns in the form of injuries, accidents and infections kill more than 200,000 people annually, according to the Leapfrog Group. The Fall 2016 Safety Grades reveal that not all hospitals are created equal in their ability to protect patient safety and prevent and control healthcare-associated infections (HAIs).
Hand hygiene is at the core of patient safety
The Leapfrog Group clearly endorses hand hygiene compliance as a core strategy for patient safety protection and infection prevention and control. However, it also claims that nearly 25 percent of hospitals haven’t yet implemented proper hand hygiene practices according to Hand Hygiene Safe Practices.
Although almost all hospitals report that they offer training and education in hand hygiene compliance, the results are mixed. Urban hospitals tend to outperform rural hospitals and compliance varies from state to state. Healthcare organizations also fail to hold patient safety officers accountable for less-than-ideal hand hygiene compliance rates.
An opportunity to improve
The Leapfrog Group’s results, which include letter grades for hospital patient safety performance, represent an opportunity for healthcare professionals committed to boosting hand hygiene compliance.
Clinicians, including physicians, nurses, pharmacists and quality managers, can use Leapfrog’s results to improve lackluster organizational performance, sustain already strong performance, or learn from the infection prevention and control strategies of other facilities.
Making hand hygiene compliance a top priority will help healthcare organizations to improve their publically available patient safety scores and prevent HAIs. That, in turn, means inviting healthcare professionals to develop enforceable hand hygiene compliance policies augmented by education, training, promotion, and programs of recognition and reward.
The role of the patient safety officer
Healthcare professionals can also join the push to appoint dedicated patient safety officers or executives, an initiative spearheaded by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) and other groups. Officers promote action through training of staff and implementation of proven methods.
Healthcare organizations that recruit or promote patient safety officers or executives should insist on education, training and certification comparable to that offered by entities such as Johns Hopkins Medicine, National Patient Safety Foundation, and Duke University Health System Patient Safety Center.
Patient safety officers should have the knowledge, skill and experience to create and sustain a patient safety culture, pinpoint and resolve safety gaps and deficiencies, apply evidence based practices and function as agents of change, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
These professionals can boost hand hygiene compliance via evidenced-based interventions, measurement support tools and practical guidance on how others can develop teams, set goals and measure results. IHI, for example, suggests appointing patient safety champions in every unit and conducting regular safety briefings.
Hospitals who implement patient safety strategies like those outlined above will help forge an enterprise-wide culture of safety. By sustaining such culture via incentives, education and training, healthcare professionals will help hand hygiene compliance achieve its promise and potential: to prevent and control HAIs and other dangerous, costly infectious diseases.