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Handwash Compliance: Healthcare’s "Ugly Baby”

Mike Mann's picture

Healthcare providers in most cases are rightfully proud of their patient and resident care. After all they likely see their operation as a finely tuned network of policies and procedures focused on their clients' wellness. It is a human behavior to love what we create. This fosters further operational enthusiasm but can dangerously conceal important realities and diminish objectivity. This creates a condition summarized as the “ugly baby” barrier to accepting reality.

C-suites are disconnected from the truth that their handwashing is running at 30% compliance, not the 90% reported regularly to the Joint Commission. To those IP nurses who do know their handwashing is the hospital's “ugly baby", they chose to overlook it because of executive complacency. Their experience is evidence of C-suite priorities. Thus, the HAI annual death counts continue unabated, year after year, 75-99k in acute and 380k in LTC.

Meanwhile, rather than dealing with the agreed and documented #1 way to reduce HAIs, C-suites invest in UV-C robots or the like. They’d rather not look at their “ugly baby” while it should be their #1 priority, based on risk reduction.

The collective costs of HAIs are high but not analyzed by separate causes. No portion of the dollar impact is attributed to poor handwashing compliance as that looks like everything is rosy at 90%. It was explained to me this way by a person who lost his spouse to an HAI: ”This 'ugly baby' condition exists in nearly every healthcare facility and no one wants to look at it.”

It is time to face the truth and admit that their handwashing is one of their creations that has morphed into "ugly baby” status. It is an ideal time to take a deep dive into this #1 opportunity to lower HAIs, deploying electronic performance monitoring systems that provide data-driven motivation. The best are those that simply remind caregivers in those moments so easy to forget. The HandsOn System gives providers a simple sequence of steps to expose, face and resolve healthcare’s handwashing shortcomings in a sustainable way.