Good hand hygiene among healthcare workers is the foundation of infection prevention and control. However, there has been little emphasis on the importance of hand hygiene among patients to help prevent the spread of hospital acquired infections (HAIs).
Patients can be involved in the transmission of pathogens and HAIs in 4 significant ways: through the transfer of pathogens within the environment, by directly spreading pathogens to other patients, by cross-contamination through direct contact with healthcare workers, and by increasing their own risk of infection from an endogenous source (1). Therefore, educating patients, but also visitors about the importance of hand hygiene and advising them on how and when to clean their hands could have a substantial impact on the rate of infections. Nevertheless, there is very little done in the healthcare sector to support this learning. However, a recent paper highlighted that in order to facilitate change, interventions must be customized to specific locations and circumstances. A one size fits all approach will not be effective. Therefore, identifying the causes of hand hygiene failure will be critical to the success of an education intervention. (2)
Everyone is responsible
When we think of infection prevention and control in healthcare, we often perceive it as staff’s responsibility. It is widely known that quality hand hygiene among healthcare workers is critical to help protect staff and patients. This is because transmission via the hands of healthcare workers accounts for a large proportion of HAIs. Most noteworthy, improvement of hand hygiene practices has been linked to reduced rate of infections. (1) However, if patients and visitors are aware and educated regarding the importance of hand hygiene, they can also play an active role in reducing the spread of infections. Despite 1 in 10 patients getting HAIs, they are not provided with adequate support or training in hand hygiene. Hospitals must empower patients to make hand hygiene easy to do on their own and to generate an understanding regarding the importance of cleaning their hands.
“No one argues against patient hand hygiene but very few are engaged in empowering patients to perform hand hygiene.”
– Kathleen Puri, InfectionControl.Tips (3)
Generating awareness of hand hygiene among patients
The World Health Organization (WHO) have expressed that generating public awareness and patient participation are key to enhancing opportunities for patient safety. There are several ways to promote patient hand hygiene throughout the healthcare setting. Firstly, by supplying hand washing/sanitizing products at convenient locations will fundamentally make it easier for patients to practice hand hygiene frequently. Secondly, it is important to have reminders about hand hygiene throughout a facility with information readily available. This can be in the form of posters, signage, and other promotional materials. Thirdly, patients should feel comfortable reminding staff to clean their hands where necessary. In addition, it would also be impactful to train patients and even their visitors in hand hygiene technique. Training them to the standard of healthcare workers will help minimise the transmission of infections through the hands. However, interventions to promote patient hand hygiene must be unique to each facility.
“Patient participation [in hand hygiene] can be a powerful tool to achieve improvements in health care”
– Dr Benedetta Allegranzi – WHO (4)
Clean hands for patients and visitors
Currently, there is little effort to empower and educate patients in hand hygiene. SureWash technology brings learning into the day to day hospital environment to encourage self-directed learning. It can be placed in a public area as a promotional tool to encourage engagement from staff, patients, and visitors. It is not only teaching users the correct hand hygiene technique, but it is also generating awareness, and helps build a habit of hand hygiene. Therefore, practicing the correct technique becomes automatic every time a patient cleans their hands. Patients can either engage with the SureWash ELITE or GO on the ward, or practice from their mobile device on the SureWash Hand Hygiene APP.
With the help of SureWash, you can incorporate patients into your infection prevention and control plan. Contact us here for further information.
- Landers, T et. al, (2012), ‘Patient Centred Hand Hygiene: The Next Step in Infection Prevention’, Available at:https://www.researchgate.net/publication/230612462_Patient-centered_hand_hygiene_The_next_step_in_infection_prevention
- Kathleen Aumann Morales et. al (2020),
‘Position on Healthcare Client Hand Hygiene,’ https://infectioncontrol.tips/2020/07/14/position-on-healthcare-client-hand-hygiene/
- Kathleen Puri (2017), ‘Empowering Patients is Critical to Decreasing HAIs’, Available at: https://infectioncontrol.tips/2017/10/19/empowering-patients/
- World Health Organization (2013), ‘WHO Encourages Patient Participation for Hand Hygiene in Healthcare’, Available at: https://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2013/hand_hygiene_20130503/en/