Joint Commission, College of Surgeons project cuts surgical site infections over 30 percent.

It’s clear that hospital workers who don’t wash their hands before interacting with patients can contribute to hospital acquired infections and poor patient outcomes. The Joint Commission and the American College of Surgeons know hand washing is so critical to curtailing infection they now recommend placing hand sanitizers right on the patient’s bed.

That’s one of the strategies to come out of a joint research project which reduced colorectal surgical-site infections (SSIs) by 32% and saved $3.7 million at seven large hospitals.


The program developed anti-infection tactics to address pre-admission, pre-operative, intra-operative, post-operative, and post-discharge care. They included:

  1. Attaching hand sanitizers to bed posts to make them readily available to providers
  2. Pre-operatively screening for infections
  3. Asking patients to shower the night or morning before a surgery
  4. Automatically re-dosing antibiotics for surgeries that last more than four hours
  5. Giving surgeons and nurses new gowns, gloves, and surgical instruments prior to suturing the patient
  6. Conducting a follow-up call within a week of discharge to review wound-care management.

Over 2.5 years, the measures helped reduced the rate of colorectal SSIs from 15.8% to 10.7% at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, Cleveland Clinic, Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System in Great Neck, N.Y., Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria, Ill.; and Stanford Hospital & Clinics in Palo Alto, Calif. The program also reduced average length of stay from 15 days to 13 days.

By emphasizing the importance of germ removal at the surgical site, the study reinforces the value of caregiver hand washing in the post-operative environment and the logic of employing automatic hand washing checks like those provided by real-time location systems (RTLS).

As an example, the TeleTracking RTLS™ Hand Washing Compliance application monitors hospital workers’ usage of alcohol and soap dispensers on a 24/7 basis, along with their entry and exit to patient care areas. This automated monitoring proactively alerts staff to compliance percentages via a Hand Hygiene Index ™ – delivering enterprise reports which can identify units that have compliance problems or those that are doing very well. This compliance tracking can help hospitals learn where the issues are or identify how specific people have found a way to increase compliance.

Supporting the adage “measure what you treasure” when people have data, they pay attention. Increased handwashing compliance is one of the easiest, most effective ways to removing germs and helping prevent infections. More awareness and compliance in this area are certainly achievable given automated systems such as RTLS.

What would you add to this list?

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