The Importance of Hand Hygiene in Hospitals: How to Improve and Monitor Compliance

September 8, 2022

Dive into why hand hygiene is so important, and how RTLS technology can help ensure compliance.

Maintaining the highest level of cleanliness is a foundation of the healthcare industry. Despite this, many healthcare facilities struggle to meet certain hygiene requirements — specifically regarding hand hygiene. The importance of hand hygiene has skyrocketed over the past few years — with COVID-19 particularly highlighting the importance of disease prevention within healthcare facilities and other public spaces.

Through organizations such as the Joint Commission and Leapfrog, hospitals have measurable ways to reach hand hygiene compliance to help safeguard their staff and their patients. However, hospitals generally have inefficient ways to track hand hygiene compliance — the Joint Commission currently says direct observation of staff hand hygiene is the most effective and accurate way to measure hand hygiene compliance. While accurate, this manual tracking can be extremely time consuming. 

By utilizing modern advancements in RTLS technology to ensure compliance, hospitals can eliminate this tedium while meeting requirements and keeping patients safe. Let’s dive into why hand hygiene is so important, and how RTLS technology can help ensure compliance.

Breaking Down the Importance of Hand Hygiene in Hospitals

Broken down into simple terms, poor hand hygiene creates an environment for bacteria to grow. Bacteria spreads disease, especially to vulnerable hospital patients undergoing care. Proper hand hygiene helps eliminate this bacteria, preventing it from spreading to patients and other healthcare workers; meanwhile, poor hand hygiene allows it to spread. An effective hand hygiene regimen ensures healthcare facilities hold themselves not only to compliance, but actively work to prevent general disease.

The largest risk posed by bacteria that remains due to improper hand hygiene is the spread of Healthcare-Associated Infections, also known as HAIs.

Hand Hygiene Helps Prevent the Spread of Healthcare-Associated Infections (HAIs)

Healthcare-Associated Infections (HAIs), sometimes referred to as Hospital-Acquired Infections, are incredibly common. According to the CDC, an average of one in 25 patients in a healthcare facility has a Healthcare-Associated Infection (HAI), totaling around 1.7 million patients annually. Common Healthcare-Associated Infections included UTIs, surgical site infections, bloodstream infections, and pneumonia.

A significant cause of HAI is inadequate hand hygiene, and ensuring hand hygiene is up to standards requires navigation beyond obvious hand-washing situations. Real-time location system technology — such as Cox Prosight — can help HAI prevention in the healthcare industry at large. 

Targeting High-Risk Hospital Areas for Compliance

Hospital-Acquired Infections don’t affect every area of a hospital equally — there are specific hospital units most at risk for HAIs. 

Because patients undergoing long-term care interact with hospital equipment at a higher frequency than short-term patients, they have more opportunities to come into contact with an HAI. Patients using urinary catheters, intravenous drips, and respiratory equipment are of particular risk.

Surgery units also face a high-risk of Hospital-Acquired Infections. Surgeons navigate several areas of the human body vulnerable to HAIs — such as wounds, incisions, and ulcers. Bacteria entering those spaces can present a massive risk for patients.

Meeting Hand Hygiene Compliance Requirements for the Joint Commission and Leapfrog

How can hospitals ensure that their facilities meet essential standards for hand hygiene compliance? The simple answer is: through data. The Joint Commission lists the essential components of a hand hygiene program as:

  • Following categories IA, IB, and IC of the the current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and/or the current World Health Organization (WHO) hand hygiene guidelines
  • Setting goals to improve compliance with hand hygiene guidelines
  • Improving compliance with hand hygiene guidelines based on established goals

All three of these components require accurate and relevant data points to help ensure success. Leapfrog, meanwhile, requires hospitals collect hand hygiene compliance data on at least 200 hand hygiene opportunities (or a minimum percentage of hand hygiene opportunities) each month, in each patient care unit or ASC — an extremely hard number to monitor without a reliable, streamlined data infrastructure. 

How RTLS Monitoring Works and Improves Hand Hygiene Compliance

Cox Prosight’s RTLS monitoring is an innovative tool for healthcare facilities, and monitoring hand hygiene compliance. It can help improve hand hygiene by accurately tracking when healthcare workers utilize hand sanitizing stations when entering and leaving a patient space, and where workers practice hygiene the most. Our solution is simple:

  • Through RTLS-enabled badges, an accurate location of a staff member is provided concerning a hand sanitation station.
  • A healthcare worker activating a sanitizing dispenser is recorded in system software.
  • The RTLS-enabled badges broadcast data that is recorded and cross-checked against compliance, and that data is viable at facility-wide, departmental, and individual levels.

Here’s how Prosight RTLS measures hand hygiene compliance and calculates compliance rate in detail.

How to Measure Hand Hygiene Compliance

With RTLS, Cox Prosight accurately tracks when a healthcare worker uses a hand sanitizing station. The data is then broadcast to a dashboard providing real-time views into what’s happening, with a robust set of analytics providing operational insights. 

Cox Prosight does not track hand hygiene compliance down to individuals. Rather, the solution aggregates data into groups — whether by floor, department, or other modifiers. As such, providers can track compliance and utilization by these groupings. Using this reporting, hospitals can measure if units are meeting compliance standards — and push policy and messaging towards the departments that need stricter compliance appropriately. 

How to Calculate Hand Hygiene Compliance Rate

Using this data, hospitals can also determine more exact compliance rates — essential for meeting compliance standards. For example, the Joint Commission's goal-based requirements rely on percentages to reach goals (i.e. “Increase overall hand hygiene compliance in all inpatient units by at least 10%).

With consistent, reliable, and centralized data tracking, calculating percent change is as simple as division. 

Cox Prosight’s Technology Works to Help Improve Hand Hygiene Compliance in Hospitals

Innovative technology helps streamline and simplify the day-to-day operations of healthcare workers, allowing them to focus on the essence of their work. Hand hygiene compliance technology is no exception — ensuring workers meet compliance standards simply while navigating day-to-day care.

Utilizing Cox Prosight’s technology, workers can focus on care, and administrators can successfully meet compliance standards. Improve and monitor compliance for hand hygiene using RTLS today.

George Valentine
AVP, New Growth and Development, Connected Health

George is an entrepreneurial executive and serial entrepreneur successful in launching, growing, and managing technology-based companies. George joined Cox Communication’s Innovation group in 2014 and is responsible for developing, incubating, and executing the company’s Connected Health strategy, including solution and partnership development, investments, acquisitions, and market trials. Prior to Cox, George founded two successful technology companies, performed a venture-backed company turnaround, and led large enterprise projects as a KPMG management consultant. George holds an MBA and B.S. in Finance from the University of South Carolina. George, his wife, and two children live in Atlanta, GA.