Friday, 21 May 2010

Hospital Acquired Infections

We often state that extended LoS in hospital increases a patient’s chances of acquiring an infection which will at best, extend their LoS even further - or in the worst case lead to a fatality.

Obviously, however, even in the rare cases where the patient’s LoS is appropriate and not extended the chance still exists.

This reminds me of a recent (& memorable) discussion with a good friend of ours, the Medical Director for Local Health in Florence, Fabrizio Gemmi.

Fabrizio’s current campaign involves the training staff in the importance of hand washing. During this training he states that the duration spent on this important hand washing activity should take a minimum of 20 seconds to be effective. To assist folk in ensuring that they spend at least 20 seconds washing their hands (without using a stopwatch) Fabrizio came up with a remarkably simple but effective solution. He suggests that whilst washing their hands staff should sing (in their heads - or out loud if they wish) Happy Birthday to You…… Twice.

I’ve since timed myself doing this (I chose the singing it in my head option – for obvious reasons) & it does actually take 20 seconds.

More recently I decided to do a little more research on the impact of HIAs on healthcare systems and came across one site in particular that grabbed my attention. It is a commercial site belonging to Kimberly-Clark but features some frightening data that they have compiled.

In the US alone they state that:

The Centres for Disease Control (CDC) report published in March-April 2007 estimated the number of U.S. deaths from healthcare associated infections in 2002 was a staggering 98,987

HIAs represent an estimated annual financial impact of $6.7 billion to healthcare facilities.

World wide they state that:

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), at any point in time, 1.4 million people worldwide suffer from infections acquired in hospitals.

The risk of acquiring an infection whilst in a hospital in developing countries is 2-20 times higher than in developed countries.

Faced with these chilling and head spinning numbers and acknowledging that the basic precaution of hand washing is pivotal in preventing HAIs, Fabrizio’s business case for his Happy Birthday to You…… Twice campaign seems (without wishing to state the obvious) more than bullet proof. The investment required is minimal and the improvement opportunity is vast.

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