Expect More Scrutiny on Hand Hygiene

This member-only article appears in the May issue of Patient Safety Monitor Journal.

Surveyors didn’t always punish healthcare organizations (HCO) if one of their employees was caught not following proper hand hygiene rules. So long as the organization had an otherwise compliant hand hygiene program, they were let off with a (pardon the pun) slap on the wrist.

That’s not how things work anymore, thanks to a January rule change. Now, if a Joint Commission surveyor sees anyone who directly cares for patients fail to perform required hand hygiene, the HCO will get a Requirement for Improvement (RFI).

The Joint Commission justified the change by saying HCOs have had more than enough time to train personnel on how to maintain hand hygiene.

“While there are various causes for HAI, The Joint Commission has determined that failure to perform hand hygiene associated with direct care of patients should no longer be one of them,” read the December issue of The Joint Commission’s Perspectives magazine.

The Joint Commission changes are important, but we shouldn’t bury the lede: “It’s 2018 and providers still aren’t washing their hands enough.”

HCOs everywhere need to up their staff’s hand hygiene compliance—not just because surveyors are inflicting harsher punishments, but because it’s an easy way to stop infections and protect patients and providers alike.

Keep compliance as simple as possible 

Dan Scungio, MT (ASCP), SLS, the laboratory safety officer for the Sentara Healthcare system in Virginia, says one of the best ways of getting people to follow any type of regulation is to make it easier for them. He points to the importance of properly placing hand soap and sanitizer dispensers. If they aren’t somewhere that’s obvious and easy for people to access, they simply won’t get used.

“If you want people to ‘wash in’ and ‘wash out’ of every patient room, you better be darn sure you have soap both outside the door and before you leave the room,” he says. “Just having it on one side of the door, in my view, doesn’t send the message that we want them to do it both times. Maybe that’s overdoing it; some people might think that’s overdoing it. But I’m a lab safety officer. I want people to comply with using personal protective equipment. But if I don’t have face shields in the department, people aren’t going to go get them if they’re not handy. You’ve got to make it easy for people to comply with the things you want them to do.”

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