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Improving hygiene in hospitals through observation

Did you know that one in 25 patients run the risk of experiencing a hospital-related infection in a United States hospital? According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2011 alone there were an estimated 648,000 patients who suffered at least one infection that they acquired from their hospital stay. This may be quite alarming for many of Kennewick readers who may be wondering what causes a number of these infections and how they can be prevented in the future.

This data points to a very real problem in U.S. hospitals: doctors and hospital staff may not be practicing the best hygiene in order to keep patients as safe as possible. Unfortunately, as many of our readers know, this can lead to accusations of negligence and even litigation, especially if a patient is injured or killed as a result of a hospital-related infection.

But a new study, conducted at the Women’s College Hospital in Canada, may have a solution that can help patients here in Washington avoid a hospital-related infection of their own.

Participants in the study, which included patients as well as nursing staff, were asked to fill out survey cards about the hand washing habits of hospital staff. With a return rate of a little more than 75 percent, researchers noticed a trend: doctors were more likely to wash their hands when they thought someone was observing them.

While many of our readers might note that good hand hygiene is something that should be practiced in hospitals even if someone is not watching, the study does point out one important fact: a patient can decrease their chances of an infection by observing good hand washing and alerting a staff member to their bad hygiene before it causes a problem. If you don’t see the hand washing personally, you can always ask a physician or a nurse to wash their hands again within your sight. Aside from giving you piece of mind it may also prevent a costly infection down the road.

Source: The Huffington Post, “When Doctors Know Patients Are Watching, Are They More Likely To Wash Their Hands?” March 31, 2014

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