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PROVIDENCE – Hospital-associated infections, which can be reduced by hand hygiene, resulted in direct medical costs for U.S. hospitals of between $36 billion and $45 billion in 2009, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
However, Rhode Island Hospital has found that compliance with hand-hygiene procedures by its staff has improved considerably in recent years, or from 60 percent to 89 percent over four years, according to a study that will be soon be published in the journal, Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.
The study involved observing hospital staff between July 2008 and December 2012. The investigators made a total of 161,526 observations and found increased hand-hygiene compliance when health care workers were leaving patients rooms, going in and out of rooms of patients with infections resistant to antibiotics and during the evening shifts.
Rhode Island Hospital has in place an infection control and prevention program.
Dr. Leonard Mermel, who serves as medical director of Rhode Island Hospital’s department of epidemiology and infection control, was the study’s principal investigator. In a statement, he called hand hygiene the most important intervention medical workers can take to reduce hospital-associated infections. At the same time, many hospitals are still struggling to create a “culture of safety” where hand hygiene is the norm and not the exception, he said. •