Maintaining good hand hygiene is a key way to prevent the spread of infections. May 5 is World Hand Hygiene Day, an annual campaign led by the World Health Organization that aims to increase awareness of the role hand hygiene can play in reducing and preventing infections.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), U.S. hospital patients contract 2 million infections annually – about one infection for every 20 patients. The infections, which may include catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTI), central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSI), and Clostridium difficile, can be serious or life-threatening, in some cases.

Recognizing its importance, many member hospitals have taken steps to improve hand hygiene among their staff, including by launching handwashing campaigns or by adopting tools to track compliance.

Infections Drop at MetroHealth

America’s Essential Hospitals member MetroHealth in 2010 launched the “Wash-In, Wash-Out” program.

The program used a team-based strategy, which helped the system drastically increase hand hygiene compliance rates – from about 70 percent in 2010 to 97 percent in 2011 – and slash three types of hospital-acquired infections. Overall, the system estimates that it saved more than $1 million per year after an initial investment of $50,000.

Hand Hygiene Learning Network

Other member hospitals have implemented specific tools to help them increase hand hygiene compliance rates and reduce infections. Seven members currently are participating in America’s Essential Hospitals’ Hand Hygiene Learning Network.

Hospitals in the network, which is administered in partnership with the Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare (CTH), use CTH’s Targeted Solutions Tool, an application that provides a step-by-step process to measure performance, helps identify barriers to improvement, and directs users to solutions for their specific barriers.

The network offers coaching calls and a series of webinars on topics including training new teams, sustaining gains, and hospitalwide implementation. For more information on the Hand Hygiene Learning Network, please contact Project Associate Ashley Ferguson, MPH, MA.

Spread the Word

On this World Hand Hygiene Day, please join me in spreading the word that washing your hands is a simple and effective way to keep patients and their caregivers infection-free. Visit the World Hand Hygiene day website for more information on how you can get involved.