Nosocomial, or Health-care Associated Infections (HAIs), are no joke. According to an article in CleanLink, between five and 10% of hospital patients will contract an HAI during their stay. Surely this is bad for patients, but the financial cost to hospitals is too great to be overlooked. The same article notes that in 2015, over 2500 hospitals were fined a total of $420 million in penalties due to HAIs. Better hand hygiene and consistent, targeted hospital cleaning promise to cut down on HAIs and limit their human and financial costs.
What are Nosocomial Infections?
In simple terms, a nosocomial infection is something a patient picked up at the hospital, after admission. They occur most commonly in the intensive care unit where the sickest patents are, but can happen anywhere in the building. Healthline.Com lists the most common types of HAIs as: urinary tract infections, surgical site infections, gastroenteritis, meningitis and pneumonia. Bacteria is by far the most common cause of these illnesses causing up to 90% of HAIs, but fungus and viruses also play a role.
Solution 1: Better Hand Hygiene
Proper hand hygiene, where healthcare workers wash their hands before and after touching patients, is the first line of defense against HAIs. Protocol also asks that hands be cleaned before aseptic procedures, after body fluid exposure and after touching the patient’s surroundings. Unfortunately, compliance with this common-sense protocol remains shockingly low. CleanLink reports that proper hand hygiene happens only 30% of the time healthcare workers interact with patients.
Solution 2: Strategic Cleaning
Dr. Philip Carling from Boston University states that better hospital cleaning is the next frontier in curbing nosocomial infection. “We need to think more about the environment around the patient,” he says. Ten studies show that on average, only 40% of surfaces are cleaned in accordance with guidelines. This is particularly unsettling considering that MRSA and other pathogens can live on uncleaned surfaces for four to seven months.
The good news is Dr. Carling found concrete ways to improve hospital cleaning. The method starts with educating environmental services staff on how to carry out a targeted cleaning approach focused on patient and caregiver touchpoints. The next phase involves ongoing education and feedback. Institutions have also had success by trading out equipment. For example Roseland Community Hospital in Chicago saw an impressive reduction in HIAs by swapping cotton string mops for chlorine stable, microfiber ones and adhering to a color-coded system to stop cross contamination between restrooms, patient rooms and operating rooms.
Click here for tools to improve hospital cleaning.
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Amy Milshtein covers design, facility management and business topics for a variety of trade publications and consumer magazines.
Her work has won several awards, most recently a regional silver Azbee Award of Excellence.
She lives in Portland, OR with her family and Clyde, a 15-lb tabby cat. Once an avid hiker, these days she finds herself on the less-challenging -but-still-exciting 'creaky knees' trails.