Effective hand hygiene in reducing the spread of infections

From Cleanzine

Rafael Cobos AMIMarEST, of Futureclean Assured Systems, reports on the psychology of hand washing and the best ways of promoting effective hand hygiene

hand-hygiene-guidelinesHand hygiene has long been considered to be the single most important preventative measure in the transmission of infectious agents. Measures to undertake hand hygiene are surprisingly straightforward and effective decontamination can be achieved through the use of soaps or detergents and a compatible disinfectant.

But compliance in healthcare facilities across all employees and the public, even in full sight of hand hygiene instructions, is often poor. What compliance and surveillance studies that have been conducted have indicated a complex picture of many different practices, working cultures, management motivation and different educational strategies.

Promotion of effective hand hygiene is therefore a complex process, involving a systemic change in the education and motivation of all interested parties within healthcare settings. A successful promotion will have to encompass many different, but complimentary strategies with the attempt to intervene at known critical points along the chain of infection transmission.

Adopting a critical point analysis to define the most effective intervention at each point along the chain, would require a set of principles that builds safety and appropriate monitoring strategies into every point, similar to the HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points) method employed for food safety.

Effective hand hygiene is feasible, cost effective and numerous studies have shown marked reduction in nosocomial (HAI’s or Hospital acquired) infections. Even in developing countries where resources are severally limited, an effective hand hygiene education programme has seen a 50% reduction of diarrhea and pneumonia in children (Luby et al 2005).

The WHO, as part of its 2004 campaign on patient safety, published the ‘Clean Care is Safer Care’ which focused on hand hygiene from an evidence-based studies. This exhaustive study included a comprehensive guide to hand washing with detergents or soaps, and with alcohol disinfectants.

This information has been condensed into a poster you can use above handwashing stations, in bathrooms and at disinfection points. The poster graphically shows how to practice effective hand hygiene in six, easy to remember steps.