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Hand Hygiene

Why is hand hygiene important?

Practicing good hand hygiene has been shown by medical research to be one of the most effective ways to reduce infections. There are two ways to practice hand hygiene: washing your hands and using alcohol-based sanitizers. Hand washing physically removes germs from the skin of your hands, washing them down the sink drain. At University of Missouri Health Care, we use germ-killing antibacterial soap, which not only washes away germs but also kills bacteria that make people sick. The hand sanitizers that you rub into the skin of your hands kill germs using alcohol rather than washing them away. Both methods are very good at reducing infections.

At MU Health Care, we require our physicians, nurses and other staff to clean their hands before and after taking care of a patient, and we require supervisors to monitor employees' hand hygiene.

What are we doing to improve hand hygiene?

University of Missouri Health Care is continually working to improve our hand hygiene rates through numerous initiatives:

  • Alcohol-based hand gels and hand-washing sinks are available throughout our hospitals and clinics.
  • We use computer screensavers and signs to remind staff, patients and visitors why it's important to clean their hands.
  • We monitor our staff to see how well they are doing with hand hygiene.

What can patients and families do to help?

We encourage all patients, family members and visitors to clean their hands often. Every hospital room has a hand washing sink with soap and water, and hand sanitizer dispensers are located throughout our hospitals and clinics.

How are we doing?

Over the past several years, our hand-hygiene rates have increased from approximately 40 percent in 2003 -- then the worldwide standard -- to our most recent rate of 99 percent in 2012. Our efforts to improve hand hygiene have included staff education, continuous monitoring by trained experts and greater availability of hand-hygiene resources such as sanitizing gel.

While our hand hygiene rate is among the highest reported rates of hand-hygiene compliance according the World Health Organization's "WHO Guidelines on Hand Hygiene in Health Care," we continue to strive for higher levels of excellence. Over the past three years, we gradually have increased our hand-hygiene goals from 86 percent to 88 percent to 90 percent to 95 percent -- with an ultimate goal of 100 percent compliance.

* In March 2011, University of Missouri Health Care implemented a plan to further improve our hand-hygiene rates. The plan included increased monitoring of hand-hygiene practices among staff, increasing the number of hand-sanitizer dispensers, and an education and training campaign to teach employees, patients and visitors about the importance of hand hygiene. Since the plan was implemented, our hand hygiene rates have increased and remained high.

More infection prevention measures

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