logo APICThe 44th annual conference of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control brought together an international array of expertise to the convention center in Portland, OR.

Presentations and an abundance of creative posters were shared, each primarily based on unique experiences. Many sessions covered the importance of kitchens and food safety protocols in the healing of patients and residents in hospitals and long-term care facilities.

The most common theme was the wide range of challenges in achieving acceptable hand washing compliance rates. Hand washing was clearly the dominant intervention of choice to lower infection rates. Reports from Ho Chi Minh City University, the University of Lagos Nigeria and the University of Chicago all called for process improvements. In the underdeveloped countries having clean water available at points of care was the top concern.

A presentation by Emily Landon of the University of Chicago’s Center for Healthcare Delivery, Science and Innovation, was a true rendering of today’s best practices in action. Her multi-year experience with electronically assisted hand washing monitoring provided insights for starting such programs as well as covering the hurdles in sustaining the process improvements. Her message stressed the importance of departmental collaboration and verified compliance data to change behaviors from the C-Suite level down to bedside patient care.

Landon monitors over 100,000 hand washes each day. A 10 percent increase in compliance at University of Chicago could save $1.2 million per year in MRSA costs alone.

Another Chicago area hospital reported using data to double their hand washing compliance within six months. Many competing technologies were studied in depth. Only 3 percent of hospitals currently are using one of the automated technologies, but if attendees at APIC 2017 are representative of the trend, the other 97 percent are busy considering data as the driver to get to the next level of risk-reduction and patient safety.

Don Schaffner Photo courtesy of Rutgers
Don Schaffner Photo courtesy of Rutgers

A recent publication by Rutgers University’s Donald Shaffner debunked the hot-water hand washing theory, which was welcomed by the nursing profession where frequent hand washing is a must and irritant hand dermatitis is a risk. Washing with “cooler but comfortable” water protects the skin’s natural protective barrier.

Discussions on disposable glove changing, echoed the typical foodservice issues. Are the gloves protecting the caregiver or the care-receiver? The unchanged glove is every bit as bad as the unwashed hand or possibly worse.

Now that handwashing can be verified, does this change glove usage? Deb Burdsall, a doctoral candidate at the University of Iowa, is an internationally renowned expert on this complex subject. She used a comedic approach to demonstrate the plight of a conscientious caregiver attempting to follow the standard gloving policy in a nursing home toileting situation. It dramatized the challenge of needed glove changing in times of patient distress and opened a discussion as in foodservice on the merits of double-gloving.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)