Gaining the upper hand on infection

How hand hygiene auditing technology is helping to reduce the spread of healthcare associated infections

Amid growing evidence that hospital managers are hiding poor hand hygiene practices in order to meet infection control targets, we explore how compliance tools can help trusts get a more-accurate picture of the problem

At the 2013 Infection Prevention Conference in London, a leading NHS expert claimed that current hand hygiene audit procedures used by trusts up and down the country were ‘fundamentally flawed’, with some hospitals reporting 100% compliance when the true figures were probably much lower.

The comments were made by Annette Jeanes, director of infection prevention and control at University College London NHS Foundation Trust (UCLH), after she carried out an investigation into existing hand hygiene reporting and monitoring systems.

She said: “When I started to look at the data, relatively early on it became clear that performance monitoring tables had not included low-risk hand hygiene opportunities, so straight away the data was looking fairly flaky.”

And she called for widespread improvements to auditing processes to ensure staff did not miss opportunities to practice good hand hygiene and help curb the spread of healthcare associated infections such as MRSA and C.difficile in NHS hospitals.

Green light

This advice has not gone unnoticed by manufacturers, who are now offering a raft of solutions to help healthcare providers monitor and record hand hygiene compliance on the wards and in community settings.

One such system is Veraz’s Green Badge solution.

Veraz’s Green Badge solution

Unlike other systems, which only detect the presence of a healthcare worker in a particular ‘hotspot’, the Green Badge makes decisions based on the detection of physical contact between a care worker and patients or their immediate material environment.

The system immediately informs the worker that they have made contact and that they need to conduct a hand wash, as well as notifying others through a visual colour indication on the badge. Green indicates the care worker has not had contact with an infected surface since the last time they conducted a compliant hand wash; yellow indicates they have touched an infected surface and are due a hand wash when they leave the contaminated zone; and red indicates that they have left the zone but have not yet conducted a hand wash.

Immediate results

The innovation was designed in conjunction with staff and patients at NHS trusts in the North of England and a clinical trial revealed it was widely accepted by staff, alleviated the need for physical observation audits, and improved hand hygiene compliance from 22% to 66% immediately after deployment.

TeleTracking Technologies has also won accolades for its compliance module.

It is currently used by a number of NHS organisations, including the Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust, where automatic sensors have reached a milestone of one million observations. This compares to just 600 visual observations over the same period.

The solution tracks every badged staff member who comes into contact with an infected patient. As well as improving hand hygiene compliance, it also keeps a record so that, in the event of an outbreak, hospitals can trace everyone who came into contact with the infected person.

TeleTracking Technologies has won accolades for its compliance module

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