How one hospital made hand hygiene rates soar

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Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH) takes its commitment to safety seriously.

In fact, that unwavering focus on quality care is our highest priority — guiding every decision; every action.

One of RVH’s most important initiatives is also one of the simplest – ensuring staff, physicians, volunteers and students clean their hands thoroughly and frequently. We all know that hand hygiene is one of the most effective ways we can keep our patients – and each other — safe.

RVH’s hand hygiene compliance rates are high; over 96 per cent as measured during the last hospital-wide audit. But our strategic plan states we will “exceed all safety measures”, so RVH is aiming for 100 per cent compliance.

Hospitals in Ontario are required to publicly post hand hygiene rates on their website, but Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre has taken that transparency and commitment to safety even further. Departmental hand hygiene rates are prominently posted at the entrance to every clinical unit.

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As well, RVH has taken the unique and bold step of posting large signs comparing current departmental hand hygiene compliance rates in busy locations throughout the health centre, such as entrances, the Food Court and near staff badge-in kiosks. Posting our results enables RVH to celebrate high compliance rates, recognize departments that demonstrate outstanding commitment to patient safety and reinforce our dedication to hand hygiene.

This type of very public reporting inspires improved performance, enhances patient safety, and strengthens the public’s confidence in our health centre.

During the past year, RVH has made significant efforts to improve hand hygiene through several creative initiatives, one of which — the Bug Busters campaign – was recognized by the Health Care Public Relations Association for communication excellence.

This multi-media campaign, based on a parody of the Ghostbusters movie, included a music video, posters, an ongoing comic strip and monthly Bug Buster recognition for RVH’s infection control champions.

The campaign built a recognized brand and a spirit of fun around RVH’s hand hygiene efforts, resulting in significantly increased compliance rates. The health centre’s overall compliance rate in 2012-13 was 86 per cent, jumping to its current rate of over 96 per cent.

Transparent, very public reporting has elevated hand hygiene awareness throughout the organization and for the first time some RVH inpatient units have begun reporting 100 per cent compliance.

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RVH has implemented mandatory annual hand hygiene education for all staff, as well as a required yearly quiz. RVH also makes it easy for healthcare professionals and visitors to wash their hands by locating over 1,000 alcohol-based hand rub stations throughout the facility.

We also added automated audio messages and prominent signage at our entrances reminding everyone entering and exiting the health centre that washing their hands is the single most effective way to reduce the spread of infection.

Simply put, hand washing saves lives.