Continuous Improvement In health care - as simple as washing your hands

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Continuous Improvement In health care  - as simple as washing your hands

Hospitals are normally places that people go to get cured not killed, but with the rise of antibiotic resistant bacteria infectious diseases are becoming harder to treat. 

The most common form of infection to be contracted in hospitals is Golden Staph (Staphylococcus aureus).  A Staph aureus infection is dangerous; a bloodstream infection has a 12-month death rate of between 20 and 35%, compared with 3-5% for a heart attack in hospital. Antibiotic-resistant Staph aureus (MRSA) infections carry an even higher death rate.

Usually our immune system copes with bacterial infections but if compromised as a result of treatment for cancer, diabetes, or other drugs we become more vulnerable to hospital-acquired infections.

The good news is that in the majority of Australian hospitals the rate of Golden Staph infection is decreasing, and one of the major reasons this is occurring is because medical staff are washing their hands!

The Australian Commission on Quality and Safety in Health Care engaged Hand Hygiene Australia (HHA) to implement the National Hand Hygiene Initiative (NHHI) in which HHA provides training to health care workers and audits hospitals in terms of their compliance to hand hygiene procedures such as washing hands before seeing patients with alcohol based hand rubs.  Over the last six years there has been a steady decline in hospital acquired Golden staph infections, click here to see the interactive table.

Hand Hygiene Australia is based a the Austin Hospital in Victoria, and their rates of Golden staph infection can be seen in the following graph:

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It was thanks to Florence Nightingale that the need for sanitation in health care came to prominence. One hundred and fifty years later, the need is just as great and the simple task of washing ones hands with alcohol based hand rubs has had a significant impact on the well being of hospital patients.

Sometimes improvement in processes leading to enhanced beneficial outcomes does not require “rocket science” but a change in attitude as this example highlights.

Posted in Performance Improvement