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02-10-2012 | Article

Patients reluctant to enquire about essential hand hygiene


Kimberly-Clark's HAI Patient Education Program

medwireNews: Parents are quick to ask their kids if they have washed their hands, but most patients do not think to ask their healthcare provider.

Kimberly-Clark, a leader in healthcare-associated infection (HAI) education and prevention, has announced results of a survey, in which 72% of respondents reported never asking healthcare providers if they have washed or sanitized their hands before beginning an exam or procedure.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), hand hygiene is one of the most important ways to prevent the spread of infections. Approximately 1.7 million hospital patients contract an HAI each year in the USA.

Conducted by ORC International on behalf of Kimberly-Clark, the survey examined the hand hygiene perceptions and behaviors of 1020 respondents. The key findings showed that very few (5%) patients ask doctors or hospital staff if they have washed or sanitized their hands before carrying out an exam or procedure.

Also, 40% of those who failed to ask about hand hygiene said it was because they assumed healthcare professionals routinely performed hand hygiene before treating any patient.

Generally, older patients were less likely to ask healthcare professionals about hand hygiene than younger patients.

Finding that only 8% of patients were provided with education on the prevention of HAIs, including proper hand washing, Dr Wava Truscott, director of scientific affairs and clinical education at Kimberly-Clark, says "the results of this survey are compelling and underscore the need for greater patient awareness and education in preventing the spread of HAIs."

To empower patients and visitors with information on infection prevention, Kimberly-Clark provides an HAI Patient Education Program that includes a toolkit, support for community events, and information on mandatory reporting and infection prevention for patients and their families.

As part of this patient education initiative, Kimberly-Clark and Safe Care Campaign, an organization created to help eradicate HAIs, recently launched a Quick Response (QR) Code program that provides hospitals and healthcare facilities with a free QR code-enabled poster with access to nine educational video vignettes related to common patient safety issues.

"Educating patients and their loved ones allows them to serve as safety advocates, taking an active role in their care by helping to ensure that HAI prevention is the business of all clinicians," said William Jarvis, former director of the CDC.

By Neil Osterweil, medwireNews reporter