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Hospitals: 99,000 & Long-Term Care: 380,000

This headline is the CDC estimate of deaths caused by Healthcare Acquired Infections (HAI). They are rarely added. The math is easy, 479,000. The solution apparently is not.

When 100 people acquire a norovirus infection it makes front page news yet 479,000 annual HAI deaths goes by unnoticed. Here is another way to look at the scope of this issue.

USA overall annual deaths:

  1. Cancer 580,350
  2. Healthcare Acquired Infections (HAIs) 479,000
  3. Heart Disease 380,000
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Handwashing: "Not Observed"

Health department inspectors feed operator complacency

Handwashing is respected by most all caregivers to some degree, whether in the kitchens, patient areas or resident rooms. Lip service is at 100% while compliance is more likely around 25%-40%.

Check out this report sent our way from a Canadian experience that we believe may be widespread but unreported in the USA. We know of the common practice to check the handsinks for residual traces of water as an indicator of handwashing and deserving of a checked “yes” box in some jurisdictions.

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Visualization & Personalization Drive Handwashing Improvements

Germ theory comes to life by visualization and personalization of the poorly washed hand. A visual feedback explains why hands must be washed at least 10 seconds and preferably 15 or 20, depending on the contamination and the physical condition of the people under their care. This is the advantage in using the ProGrade Scorecard where a standard in quality of the handwash is established.

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Handwashing: Data to the Rescue

Electronic monitoring of handwashing reveals the risky reality

Suspected low handwashing rates are increasingly being confirmed with the aid of electronics. Potential brand damaging outbreaks threaten healthcare foodservice and restaurants but this recurring under-washed condition is rarely the topic of C-Suite discussions.

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The New Legal Look at Handwashing

“quality controls … to safeguard consumer and employee health.”

2016 is starting out as a potential watershed for hospital, nursing home and foodservice handwashing. Two high profile Norovirus outbreaks at Chipotle restaurants in 2015 were followed by two legal actions and a 35% drop in Chipotle’s stock price. Controlling Norovirus is highly dependent on good handwashing.

A Simi Valley California law suit was followed by a devastating New York District Court action raised by a concerned stockholder for failing to disclose that its “quality controls were inadequate to safeguard consumer and employee health.”

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The 5 Handwashing Hurdles

Sixteen years of formal and informal research has provided the Handwashing For Life Institute with a long list of reasons and excuses for low handwashing rates. Today caregivers may hear of their compliance rate being reported at 90% but in their heart of hearts know it is far short of the reported number.

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Advancing Compliance Monitoring

Stepping down the risk by stepping up the technology


Culture change is the only way Handwashing For Life Healthcare has found to convert time-hardened handwashing behaviors. Years of accepting low compliance now defines today's reality. Whatcha got is … who you are!

Years of training have produced waves of temporary peaks in performance. Training without standards has proven to be both frustrating and costly as gains slip back to the undeclared norm.

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The Joint Commission Resets Handwashing Compliance

Continuous improvement trumps the mythical “90%”

The shortage of actual data on handwashing compliance in healthcare has evolved into a serious industry-wide overstatement of compliance. Knowing good things happen once a 90% level is achieved, reported handwashing rates quickly climbed to that number.

Professional advancement and even bonuses are “earned”, institutionalizing a standard of bad behaviors.  The Joint Commission's norm is clearly stated in their Comprehensive Accreditation Manual for Hospitals. It says nothing about 90%.

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