Consistent hand hygiene saves lives

Consistent hand hygiene reduces the monthly mortality rate in nursing homes, particularly during influenza peaks. The use of antibiotics also declines. These are the findings of a study involving 26 nursing homes in France.

Hand hygiene is both simple and essential. A study published by the ”American Journal of Infection Control” (AJIC) in February 2018 shows that consistent hand disinfection can save lives. The study covered 26 nursing homes in France. In the facilities where everyone participated in the program for consistent hand hygiene, the monthly mortality rate of 2.10 per 100 home residents was 30 percent lower than in the control group, with 2.65 per 100 home residents. This result refers to the period from January to March 2015, when a large number of home residents were suffering from influenza.

Information campaign on hand hygiene

In addition, the residents of the homes, who participated in the program for consistent hand hygiene, were less often so seriously ill that antibiotic therapy was necessary. This allowed residents to take fewer antibiotics throughout the study period from April 2014 to April 2015. The significance of hygiene measures is revealed when considering that the positive influence on the mortality rate ended when the program for consistent hand hygiene ended.

The program had been introduced in 13 of the 26 homes, and was aimed at employees, residents, visitors, as well as all external service providers. During the program, an information campaign included posters and events on hygiene guidelines, pocket-sized hand soaps were distributed, and new soap dispensers installed. In each of the participating nursing homes, there was also a working group to implement hand hygiene guidelines, and find ways to make these accessible to the employees of the nursing homes. For example, nursing home staff could test their knowledge in an online quiz.

“With our measures, we were able to prevent deaths of residents from the flu,” says Laura Temime, one of the study’s authors and professor at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers in Paris. But because residents generally suffered from several diseases, and were particularly susceptible to severe complications, some of them died shortly afterwards. Temime explains this as follows: “We have extended life expectancy by three to six months – a significant gain in these facilities, where the average life span is 18 months.” Temime and the co-authors of her study have shown that consistent hand hygiene is extremely important, not only in hospitals and doctors’ practices, but particularly in nursing homes.

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