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Patient Safety a Catalyst for Tighter Infection Controls

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, September 7, 2011

A study showing that hand washing increases among medical professionals when the organizational emphasis is on patient safety is hardly breaking news, but it should be a key motivator for other infection control practices, one infection control advocate says.

Russ Olmsted, president of Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, Inc., said in an email to HealthLeaders Media he was "encouraged" to see social scientists "share an interest in the behavioral aspects of patient care" and Olmsted said he welcomed additional research.

The study Olmsted cited,It's Not All About Me: Motivating Hospital Hand Hygiene by Focusing on Patients,found significantly better compliance with hand hygiene when hospital signage encouraged healthcare professionals to consider the health and safety of their patients, rather than themselves. The study will appear in Psychological Science.

"Clearly we have a healthy supply of products to support hand hygiene. The 'missing ingredient' however is perhaps a better understanding of human behavior in the healthcare environment and then the application of interventions that use findings such as this from social sciences," Olmsted said.

"The knowledge from social sciences can also be applied to other interventions aimed at preventing cross infection, such as use the of personal protective equipment when caring for patients on isolation precautions, implementation of infection prevention "bundles" for devices needed for patient care, e.g. central venous catheters, and even hygiene for the inanimate environment," he said.

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