A hand hygiene audit is a way to measure how well your hospital or healthcare setting is doing in terms of preventing healthcare-acquired infections. You will hear the term “audit” and think of something scary, but an audit, in this case, just means that someone counts how many times healthcare workers use alcohol-based hand rub (ABHR) in a shift. This type of hand hygiene audit is done on a small sample of healthcare workers by an external observer who doesn’t necessarily belong to your organization.

Hand Hygiene is the Main Focus of the Healthcare Industry

Hand hygiene has been the main focus of the healthcare industry for many years. In 1847, Hungarian physician Ignaz Semmelweis discovered the importance of handwashing in reducing the spread of disease. He had recently become responsible for the maternity ward of Vienna General Hospital and asked his colleagues why so many women were dying from childbed fever. 

At that time, doctors’ hands were not washed between patients, but Semmelweis realized that these practices could be putting patients at risk. He started to insist his colleagues wash their hands with chlorine before delivering babies, and by doing so, he cut the death rate by two-thirds.

Although handwashing is now known to reduce infections in all settings, it was not until over a century later that data emerged about how important hand hygiene is in healthcare settings specifically. According to a study published by The Lancet in 2009, poor compliance with recommended hand hygiene practices results in increased rates of hospital-acquired infections and more patient deaths.

Why are Hand Hygiene Audits Important?

Hand hygiene audits are important because they help hospitals identify problem areas, benchmark performance against other organizations, and educate staff about hand hygiene practices. Preventing healthcare-acquired infections is one of the most important things a hospital can do for its patients and the community at large.

While there are many different strategies to achieve this goal, hand hygiene is one of the most crucial, which is why hand hygiene audits are so important. They allow administrators to understand how well their hospital is doing in preventing healthcare-acquired infections.

They achieve that by monitoring where staff members miss hand hygiene opportunities and by comparing themselves with other organizations that have similar patient populations and environments. However, a hand hygiene audit tool makes the auditing task simpler and more accurate for the healthcare centers.

Hand Hygiene Practices Have Come a Long Way Over the Years

Hand hygiene best practices are effective at reducing healthcare-associated infections (HAIs). They were first published in the literature by Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis, who required his medical students to wash their hands with chlorinated lime before entering the maternity ward of his Vienna hospital in 1847; this practice dramatically reduced both maternal mortality and infection rates. 

Since then, hand hygiene best practices have evolved as more advanced technology has been developed and new pathogens have emerged. One example of an emerging pathogen is C. difficile, for which improved hand hygiene best practices were recommended in 2003 when it was found that alcoholic soaps did not affect the spores present on the hands themselves.

Hand hygiene practices are always being updated as researchers learn more about transmission methods, such as via fomites or airborne particles, and discover new infection prevention recommendations or protocols such as cleaning rooms with UV light wands between patients in hospitals.

Hand Hygiene Practices are Discussed, Published, and Encouraged. But in Reality, Adherence Rates are Not Always Ideal

As a healthcare professional, you know that hand hygiene is one of the most important steps to take in preventing the spread of infection. However, it is common for compliance rates to be below 60%. This means that hospital workers aren’t practicing proper hand hygiene approximately 40% of the time. This can result in infections such as C-diff and CRE which are associated with higher mortality rates and longer lengths of stay.

Furthermore, patients tend to follow hand hygiene standards less than half the time. Hand washing signs in patient bathrooms and alcohol-based rub dispensers outside patient rooms do little to change this fact.

It’s no secret that improving hand hygiene has a direct impact on reducing HAIs (hospital-acquired infections), so why isn’t more being done?

Without an effective program in place that includes hand hygiene audits, it is difficult for a healthcare facility to ensure that all of its employees are properly following the protocols that are in place.

Effective Programs of Hand Hygiene Audits Should be Regularly Done

Without an effective program in place that includes hand hygiene audits, it is difficult for a healthcare facility to ensure that all of its employees are properly following the protocols that are in place. It’s important for hospitals not only to have a robust hand hygiene program but also one that is monitored and evaluated regularly.

There are several reasons why it is so important to conduct regular hand hygiene audits. Perhaps the most important is that without these audits, there is no way for a hospital to know if its staff members follow protocols effectively and consistently.

Handwashing is extremely effective at preventing the spread of infections within hospitals, but only if employees follow the proper procedures and practice good hand hygiene consistently. Additionally, studies have shown that many nurses self-report that they wash their hands more often than they do; doing so can help them feel less guilty about missing a step or two during their shift. 

Lastly, it’s important to note that without rigorous auditing and accountability, it’s difficult for administrators or managers of hospitals to know how well their facilities are doing when compared with other hospitals throughout the nation or around the world.

Every Healthcare Facility Do Not Have the Medium to Notify About Hand Hygiene

Most facilities do not have the luxury of reminding their patients to wash their hands every time they enter and exit their rooms.

 You may be lucky enough to work in a facility where the staff can remind their patients to wash their hands every time they enter and exit their rooms. Unfortunately, however, most facilities do not have the luxury of doing this. It is due to so many other pressing patients’ needs that it is impossible to make hand hygiene a priority any more than once or twice per shift.

Additionally, patients are generally not aware of the importance of handwashing in preventing infection, nor are they aware of the proper technique. Many people barely wash their hands at all when using public restrooms; if it is not something people do regularly unless directed by others (i.e., children), it is no wonder that these same people would need direction regarding hand hygiene when entering and exiting healthcare settings as well.

How Do I Get Started with Hand Hygiene Audits?

You can run your hand hygiene audits or use the services of a health and safety consultancy. Regardless, you should follow the same steps:

  • Select a hand hygiene audit tool that suits the needs of your organization. For example, a small dental practice might not require the same level of detail as a large hospital or care home.
  • Conduct your audit and record findings.
  • Use these results to identify areas for improvement and incorporate them into plans for improvement. This could be things like additional training, management support, or access to clean water and hand sanitizer stations.
  • Repeat the process regularly (quarterly is ideal) to ensure that progress is being made, with evidence-based plans in place to keep up the momentum towards targets.

This is Why Audits are So Important

Hand hygiene audits are vital for ensuring hand hygiene best practices within a facility. Although it can be challenging for facilities to decide how often to perform audits and who should be auditing, these steps are critical in establishing a culture of effective hand hygiene within the healthcare industry.