More hand washing in nursing homes can extend life spans, reduce prescription drug use
08/08/2018 // Michelle Simmons // Views

Thorough hand washing practices in all healthcare facilities, such as nursing homes, can prolong life and reduce prescription drug use, a study published in the American Journal of Infection Control found.

Researchers of the study looked at the effect of implementing a multi-component hand hygiene program among nursing homes, as these places are common for infection prevalence. They examined 26 nursing homes in France from April 2014 to April 2015. The subjects were randomly divided into two groups – intervention and control. The hand hygiene program was targeted to nursing home staff, residents, visitors, and outside care providers. It also included facilitated access to hand-rub solution using pocket-sized containers and new dispensers; a campaign promoting hand hygiene with posters and event organization; and forming local work groups in every nursing home to give importance on hand hygiene guidelines and staff education. Moreover, the staff took online quizzes at the program's culmination. Those who did not get high scores were asked to redo the education portion at a later date.

Results of the study revealed that the intervention group that included hand hygiene measures reported less deaths with 2.10 deaths per 100 residents per month compared to 2.65 deaths in the control group. The mortality rate in the intervention group was 30 percent lower in January to March 2015, during which France recorded a large influenza epidemic that greatly affected older adults. In addition, the intervention group also reported lower antibiotic prescription rates. Furthermore, the average quantity of hand sanitizer consumption was higher in the intervention group with 7.9 milliliters (mL) per resident per day, in comparison to 5.7 mL per resident per day of the control group.


“Hand hygiene protocols have traditionally focused on acute care settings,” said Laura Temime, the lead author of the study and a professor at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers. “Our study is changing this narrative, underscoring that we can take a proven intervention practice and make it work outside of the hospital space, by specifically adapting it to long-term settings.”

The findings of the study indicate that applying consistent measures that incline staff, residents, and visitors to wash hands can decrease death and antibiotic prescription rates as well as increase overall hand sanitizer use.

“It is crucial that we increase efforts to bolster infection prevention programs in nursing homes because residents of these facilities have more underlying health conditions and are more vulnerable to serious complications from infections,” said Janet Haas, the 2018 president of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC).

Infections in nursing homes

In the U.S., nursing homes provide services to more than three million people each year. In most cases, these healthcare facilities provide the care and treatment that older adults cannot receive at home. However, nursing homes also have harmful consequences, with the risk of infections being the most common.

Every year, there are one to three million infections seen in nursing homes and as high as 380,000 residents die from them. Some of the most common infections observed in these facilities include Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), urinary tract infections, pneumonia, staph infections, and influenza.

Practicing proper hand hygiene is one of the simplest and effective way to prevent infections. Washing your hands can prevent the spread of germs, such as those that are resistant to antibiotics and are becoming difficult. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), healthcare providers clean their hands less than half of the times they should. Moreover, approximately one in 25 hospital patients has at least one healthcare-associated infection. (Related: Nursing assistants found to contribute to the spread of infections in nursing homes by failing to change their gloves, according to recent study.)

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