Looking to reduce infections in your hospital? You may want to get on your doctors and remind them about hand hygiene.

It’s been said time and again that the No. 1 way to protect against deadly patient infections is by practicing proper hand hygiene . But the message isn’t getting through to everyone, particularly doctors.

Research conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that doctors are the worst offenders when it comes to washing their hands. In the hospitals studied, which were located in five countries across the globe, doctors only washed their hands properly about 60% of the time. Nurses fared better at 71%.

After implementing a five-step process designed to put hand hygiene at the forefront of healthcare staffers’ minds, overall compliance with proper hand-washing protocols increased by 16% at these hospitals, from 51% to 67%.

Here’s the process promoted by the WHO:

  1. Make sure healthcare workers have access to alcohol-based hand rub when caring for patients.
  2. Educate staff about the five key instances in patient care where it’s crucial to wash their hands  (before touching a patient, before clean and antiseptic procedures, after contact with body fluids, after touching a patient and after touching a patient’s surroundings).
  3. Monitor compliance and give feedback
  4.  Post visual reminders at points of care in your hospital.
  5. Create a culture where patient safety is important.

These steps are affordable and easily implemented by almost any hospital. In fact, more than 15,700 healthcare institutions around the world already follow this strategy.

But there’s still more work to be done to get all doctors and nurses on board.

Another approach to education

Some hospitals are trying other unique strategies to remind doctors and nurses to wash their hands properly. One in particular that’s gaining traction: getting patients involved in the process.

According to an article published in FierceHealthcare, in some cases, nurses are initiating conversations with patients, asking them to speak up if they notice that their doctor isn’t washing his or her hands correctly. Other hospitals are posting flyers, encouraging patients to ask their doctors if they’ve washed their hands.

Even doctors themselves are telling their patients to inform them of any lapses in proper hand hygiene.

Promoting an environment with such open communication between patients and providers can only be beneficial for your hospital. Any reminders staffers can get to wash their hands are crucial to keeping patients safe – and avoiding scrutiny about high infection rates.

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