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One in Five U.S. Hospitals Don’t Put Hand Sanitizer Everywhere Needed to Prevent Infections

Study examines compliance with WHO hand hygiene guidelines (February 27)

Approximately one in five U.S. health facilities don’t make alcohol-based hand sanitizers available at every point of care, missing a critical opportunity to prevent health care-associated infections, according to new research from the Columbia University School of Nursing and the World Health Organization (WHO).

The study, which examined compliance with WHO hand hygiene guidelines in the U.S., also found that only about half of the hospitals, ambulatory care facilities, and long-term care centers had set aside funds in their budgets for hand hygiene training.

The findings were published in the American Journal of Infection Control.

Researchers surveyed compliance with WHO hand hygiene guidelines at 168 facilities in 42 states and Puerto Rico. Overall, 77.5% of the facilities reported that alcohol-based sanitizers were continuously available at every point of care. About one in ten facilities reported that senior leaders, such as the chief executive officer, the medical director, and the director of nursing, didn’t make a clear commitment to support hand hygiene improvement.

“When hospitals don’t focus heavily on hand hygiene, that puts patients at unnecessary risk for preventable health care-associated infections,” said lead investigator Laurie Conway, RN, MS, CIC, a PhD student at Columbia Nursing. “The tone for compliance with infection- control guidelines is set at the highest levels of management, and our study also found that executives aren’t always doing all that they can to send a clear message that preventing infections is a priority.”

According to the investigators, hand hygiene is critical to preventing health care-associated infections, which kill about 100,000 people a year in the U.S. and cost about $33 billion to treat. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidelines for hand hygiene in 2002, and the WHO followed suit in 2009.

Source: EurekAlert; February 27, 2014.

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