Patient Safety USA: Hand Hygiene

  • Posted by Jim Hersh

Hand Hygiene

Optimal Patient Safety Begins with Hand Hygiene

Good Hand Hygiene Has Long-Reaching Benefits

Hand Hygiene and Pathogen Transmission

Healthcare providers have long been aware of the benefits of scrupulous hand hygiene techniques – and modern research has begun to confirm those beliefs. Until now, detailed hand trajectories haven’t been cohesively examined—but a new study, released by Lauren Clack, Manuela Scotoni, Aline Wolfensberger, and Hugo Sax harnessed a head-video capture and coding tool to track hand-to-surface routes in real-life healthcare settings. The researchers’ findings will help others to design better preventive strategies—and the head-mounted action camera is likely to play a pivotal role in those upgrades.

The Problem

For decades, patient safety experts have understood the link between disease and poor hand hygiene. In the Clack et. al. study, entitled “’First-person view’ of pathogen transmission and hand hygiene – use of a new head-mounted video capture and coding tool,” researchers acknowledged that when proper hand hygiene is ignored, pathogens are transmitted. Microorganisms with antibiotic resistance are especially dangerous, since they can delay the patient’s recovery and keep them in the hospital longer. With the rise of healthcare-associated infection, it’s imperative that high-quality hand hygiene measures are implemented—but how?

The Methods

In the study, healthcare workers wore cameras while they worked, affixed to their foreheads with head-straps. Oriented downwards, the cameras kept the workers’ hands in their vision fields as they moved about the 900-bed Swiss facility. Cameras tracked whether workers were wearing gloves, and detected the nature of each surface the worker interacted with.

The Findings

In the end, the videos captured almost three hundred minutes of footage, revealing that around five hundred of the healthcare workers’ transitions represented either “colonization events” or “infection events” – and handwashing occurred just seventeen percent of the time preceding those events.

Ultimately, researchers realized that because our system relies so much on the human touch, so to speak, hands play a central role in the spread of pathogens. Plus, the study revealed that healthcare workers in the Swiss facility rarely followed appropriate hand hygiene procedures before interacting with potential colonization and infection sites. The researchers’ work is bound to boost patient care across the world as hospital administrators work to improve transmission prevention protocols.