Patient Reticence Interferes with Optimum Hospital Hand Hygiene

hand%20washing.jpgProper hand washing and hygiene procedures by nurses, doctors and other healthcare personnel attending to a patient, are critical to patient safety and the prevention of hospital-acquired infections. Doctors, infection control experts and Indiana medical malpractice attorneys agree that patients play a big role in encouraging healthcare personnel to adopt good hand hygiene practices. However, a new study finds that many patients fail to speak up when they see healthcare personnel failing to adopt proper hand hygiene practices.

This information comes from research published in the December issue of the Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology journal. The researchers conducted a survey of 200 patients who had either suffered a methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection or a clostridium difficile infection in the past, or were at risk for these infections. Some of the patients were at risk for central line-associated bloodstream infections.

The researchers found that awareness about the importance of hand hygiene procedures was very high among patients. More than 99% of the patients believed that healthcare personnel needed to wash their hands before and after checking up on patients. More than 90% believe that medical personnel should be reminded to wash their hands if they failed to do so.

However, not all patients seemed to act on this awareness. Only about 64% said that they would be comfortable reminding nurses about washing their hands if they failed to do so.
Patients seemed to be even more uncomfortable with doctors. Only 54% admitted that they would be comfortable reminding doctors to wash their hands. Only 14% of the patients admitted that they had ever asked healthcare personnel to wash their hands before checking on them.

What this study does seem to indicate is that there is widespread awareness among patients about the need for health care personnel like nurses and doctors to wash their hands thoroughly before and after checking the patient. However, the same patients seem very uncomfortable about approaching nurses and doctors and reminding them about washing their hands before a checkup.

Good hand hygiene includes basic and simple procedures that should be adopted by every nurse and doctor, and in the process, reduce the risk of hospital-acquired infections. A proper hand hygiene routine is as simple as scrubbing hands with soap and water. Doctors and nurses can also use an alcohol-based hand scrub to sanitize their hands before and after they attend to a patient.

These procedures are simple and easy and can prevent serious hospital-acquired infections like methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus and Clostridium difficile infections. In fact, the number of MRSA infections around the country has dropped over the past few years, and medical experts speculate that this drop is due to increased hand hygiene rates among health care personnel.

The Indiana medical malpractice lawyers at Montross Miller Muller Mendelson Kennedy, LLP represent victims of medical negligence by doctors and nurses across Indiana.