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Hospitals can reduce rates of health care-associated infection

People expect to check into a Washington hospital to receive treatment. They probably do not expect a lengthy stay due to an infection acquired while they were there. These hospital-acquired infections are a serious problem, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In fact, statistics indicate that about one patient out of every 25 develops an HAI each day.

There may be many potential sources for germs, including the patient and his or her visitors. However, FierceHealthcare.com reports that a CDC study indicates the risk of infections may be significantly lowered through the actions of hospital staff. This conclusion places the responsibility for infection control in the hands of hospital employees, and the solution is as simple as proper hand hygiene.

The research took place in a hospital that already had what is considered to be a high level of hand-washing compliance from staff--80 percent. Anything less than 100 percent can be improved, though, and at that facility, the methods employed by the study were successful in raising the rate to 95 percent over the course of the 17-month study.

Compliance with CDC standards involves each hospital staff member washing his or her hands when entering the room, and again when leaving. Every employee was given the authority to observe and report noncompliance, from the specialists to the janitors. Not only did hand washing increase when this happened, the number of HAIs decreased.

In order to be completely conclusive, researchers would have had to control all other factors that can cause HAIs. This was not possible, but they did adjust for as many of the issues as they could. For example, no other HAI-reduction initiatives were undertaken at that time. Therefore, the hand-washing compliance improvement techniques used in the study have been deemed successful at infection prevention.

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