Handwashing: It's not just for caregivers anymore

Readers know I don’t think patients should be responsible for telling doctors and nurses to wash their hands. That should be the job of the health professionals themselves and the institutions for which they work.  I acknowledge, however, that patients may improve their safety by asking.

But hand hygiene concerns go beyond health care professionals. Patients can also get infections from family and friends who visit, and from not following good hand hygiene practices themselves. And here patients do have a role: I’m totally supportive of having patients ask (demand) that visitors wash hands. Patients should also make sure they’re doing all they can with their own hygiene. Hospitals have a role, too, in educating patients and visitors and providing reminders.

It’s notoriously hard to improve health care provider compliance with best hand hygiene practices and it’s awkward for patients to have to be the hall monitors. But maybe the road to better compliance by doctors and nurses is for patients to be more conscious about their own hygiene and that of their visitors.

You can read more about this topic at FierceHealthCare.

By David E. Williams of the Health Business Group.

October 24, 2013

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