For centuries humans have battled against bacteria, viruses and infections but it wasn't until the 19th century the notion of hand hygiene was implemented at healthcare facilities to deter such ailments. Today good hand hygiene is still the zenith of infection prevention.
Germs are everywhere, and while some germs are essential for the human body, others are the type we have been warned against all our lives. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in 25 hospital patients has at least one Health Care-Associated Infection (HAI), which may be prevented by simple, yet effective, hand hygiene.
In honor of the Father of Hand Hygiene, Ignaz Semmelweis, William Beaumont Army Medical Center's Infection Prevention and Control section are recognizing hand hygiene heroes for their efforts in practicing and promoting proper hand hygiene throughout WBAMC.
"Throughout the year we do activities on hand hygiene and we culminate with Semmelweis' birthday (July 1)," said Lynn McNicol, infection prevention specialist. "Good hand hygiene is a multi-modal approach because we know from the scientific literature that doing one activity to improve hand hygiene usually doesn't work, so we do multiple activities throughout the year."
Semmelweis, a Hungarian physician, is known for his observations in the mid-1800s. After noting differences in mortality rates between two maternity wards at a hospital, Semmelweis mandated handwashing with chlorine for doctors, who would tend to laboring mothers after performing autopsies, resulting in a dramatic decrease in death rates at the hospital.
Unfortunately, Semmelweis' concepts weren't easily accepted in the medical community. Even today, the CDC estimates healthcare providers wash their hands less than half the times they should.
To combat poor hand hygiene habits, WBAMC's Infection Prevention and Control section kicked off a series of projects to promote hand hygiene and increase accountability within WBAMC, including The Joint Commission's Targeting Solutions Tool (TST), an online application which helps track hand hygiene compliance.
"When (WBAMC's Department of Quality and Safety) implemented the (TST) program it was just one project for the whole hospital," said Alexander Buda, infection prevention specialist, WBAMC. "We took it over and targeted each clinic and made their own project. The TST says leadership needs to be involved so that's what we wanted to do, target each leader to make sure (of compliance)."
With the assistance of various infection control unit coordinators, who in addition to providing patient care took on additional duties, Buda was able to efficiently track hand hygiene trends and progress. Specifically, the Infection Control and Prevention section wishes to recognize WBAMC's Department of Rehabilitation, Medical and Surgical Inpatient Wards, Post-Anesthesia Care Unit, and the Family Care and Pediatric Clinics of the Spc. Hugo V. Mendoza Soldier Family Care Center at Fort Bliss.
"Those individuals (in mentioned units) stand in front of the patient and wash their hands and they do it every time and facilitate hand hygiene in others," said Buda. "It went from one big project to 32 smaller projects, most moving in the right direction and a lot of the unit coordinators have done an outstanding job just collecting, inputting and training."
In addition to promoting hand hygiene through TST project participation, WBAMC surpassed all similar Army Military Treatment Facilities for inpatient perception of our compliance with hand hygiene, reaching a 90.6 percent satisfaction rate, for the second quarter of fiscal year 2018, according to the data from the TRICARE Inpatient Satisfaction Survey, a survey provided to inpatient to gauge overall experiences during treatment.
"A satisfaction rate of 90 percent is our ultimate goal and we surpassed it and are above our peer group," said McNicol. "The survey is based off patient perception, which is important because their perception is the truth."
"(100 percent hand hygiene) is a work in progress," said Buda. "This battle will never end with hand hygiene."