Fake News in Your Hospital: Hand Hygiene Compliance

Fake news and how it influences policy and politics has been grabbing headlines lately. I'm sure many who read this blog are rightly concerned about this development. If we can't even agree on the truth, how can we set about making policy and solving problems?  What struck me about the fake news discussions is that we have an example of fake news in our hospitals - reported hand hygiene compliance!

A few weeks ago, I wrote that hand compliance in your hospital is likely between 34% and 57%, since a review of trials published since 2009 reported those levels before and after interventions were implemented. Apart from that study, how can I know your true compliance rates when you're reporting hand hygiene compliance rates over 90%?  I have several reasons.

First, harken back to this 2010 interview of Mark Chassin, then and current President and CEO of The Joint Commission. In the interview, he shared the initial results of their "proven effective solutions for improving hand hygiene compliance in hospitals", which were developed in 8 center hospitals and further evaluated in 29 additional hospitals.  At the beginning of this project, hand hygiene compliance was 48%. Look at what Dr. Chassin said about the baseline rate - "It’s interesting that a number of the hospitals were misled by faulty data to believe that they were doing as well as, say, 85%, at baseline rather than 48%."

Second, even after their huge hand hygiene initiative, they were only able to get compliance up to 82%. Interesting, so even The JC acknowledges that you can't get to 90% compliance. Yes, but that was 2010, what about 2017?

Third, The Joint Commission's National Patient Safety Goal 07.01.01 for 2017 doesn't require hand hygiene compliance over a specific threshold (see Figure below). Hospitals only have to set goals for improving compliance and then improve compliance based on those goals.  So why do hospitals continue to set unreachable goals for hand hygiene compliance (say over 90%)? Are there downsides with setting fake goals - do they hurt our credibility, do they result in a feeling of learned helplessness among clinical and infection prevention staff and do they harm our patients?


Side note: One of the things that struck me when rereading the Chassin interview is the dissonance between the primary barrier to hand hygiene compliance that The Joint Commission identified and their planned "next steps" to get compliance above 82%. I pasted the quotes below. Do you think their interventions addressed the identified barrier?  Me neither.

Primary Barrier: "So, for example, for one of the causes (“hands full”), which was a surprise for many of the participants, caregivers approach a patient’s room with their hands full—for example, a nurse is carrying materials to do a dressing change—and there’s no place to put the materials down. The hand-gel dispenser is right there, on the wall, but there’s no place to put the materials down, so what do you do?"

Joint Commission Solution: "We’re looking to industry to address one of the more difficult parts of sustaining and getting past 80%, namely, replacing this very labor-intensive measurement system with devices, software solutions, and applications that are relatively inexpensive but will provide real-time feedback on performance."

Image Source: AIM


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