SOURCE: Medline Industries, Inc.


March 16, 2011 16:55 ET

Experts Agree U.S. Needs to Step Up Infection Control Efforts Starting With Hand Hygiene Practices

Facilities in New Hand Hygiene Project See Compliance Increase From 48% to 81%

MUNDELEIN, IL--(Marketwire - March 16, 2011) - U.S. healthcare facilities are grossly underperforming in hand hygiene compliance, which could impact healthcare-associated infections and patient safety, said two of the world's foremost experts on infection prevention and hand hygiene.

Speaking last week before more than 200 healthcare leaders at a hand hygiene forum organized by Loyola University Medical Center and Medline Industries, Inc., at Loyola's Strich School of Medicine in Maywood, Ill., Professor Didier Pittet, MD, director of the infection control program at the University of Geneva, Switzerland, and Mark R. Chassin, MD, FACP, MPP, MPH, president of The Joint Commission, cited time constraints, product misconceptions and faulty data as main reasons for the country's poor hand hygiene compliance, but also offered hope for improvement. The Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare tackled the issue of hand hygiene compliance as its first project, according to Dr. Chassin. The participating organizations were surprised to learn that their rate of hand hygiene compliance averaged 48 percent.

"These healthcare organizations had the courage to step forward to tackle the problem of hand washing by digging deep to find out where the breakdowns were taking place so we could create targeted solutions," Dr. Chassin said. "We are very optimistic since the original facilities participating in the project have seen their average compliance increase to 81 percent and have sustained that level for 10 months."

Time Constraints for Hand Hygiene
Other reasons for poor compliance, according to Dr. Pittet, is lack of time by healthcare workers to perform hand hygiene and misinformation on what type of product is most effective -- soap and water, alcohol-based hand sanitizers or foams.

"The problem with soap and water is that it takes anywhere from one to one-and-a-half minutes to perform proper hand hygiene. If workers wash their hands 15-20 times in an hour, that would take about half an hour, which is totally unrealistic. Also, after several washings, your hands will become dry and chapped," said Dr. Pittet. "Alcohol-based hand rubs take only 15-30 seconds, they're also more effective than soap and water, better for your hands and more convenient because you can carry them around with you."

Need for higher percentage alcohol to increase effectiveness
Dr. Pittet, a member of the Advisory Board of the World Health Organization (WHO) World Alliance for Patient Safety, also emphasized that there is no evidence in the current published literature that supports the effectiveness for foam-based hand hygiene products. However, he strongly suggests using alcohol-based hand rubs with at least 80 percent ethanol -- a significantly higher percentage than 62 percent ethanol, commonly used by U.S. facilities, which is at the low end of the CDC recommendation.

"It's hard to believe that there have been so many products that have been used in the United States that will never pass the European norms," said Dr. Pittet. "So some of the products that you are using in the United States have not made it to the European market, because they just don't meet the norms."

Center for Transforming Healthcare hand hygiene solutions now available
According to Dr. Chassin, the solutions developed by the original organizations participating in the Center for Transforming Healthcare's hand hygiene project are now available via the Center's Targeted Solutions Tool™ (TST), a complimentary data-driven application. The solutions are validated and customized to address an organization's particular barriers to excellent performance. Use of the tool is self-paced, confidential, and offers instantaneous data analysis.

Dr. Chassin said the good news is that more healthcare facilities are focusing major efforts on hand hygiene compliance. He cited that more than 1,500 projects at 900 organizations are now using the Center for Transforming Healthcare's hand hygiene TST.

About the Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare
Established in 2009, the Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare aims to transform American healthcare into a high-reliability industry that ensures patients receive the safest, highest quality care they expect and deserve. The Center's participants -- the nation's leading hospitals and health systems -- use a proven, systematic approach to analyze specific breakdowns in care and discover their underlying causes to develop targeted solutions for healthcare's most critical safety and quality problems. The Center is a not-for-profit affiliate of The Joint Commission, which shares the Center's proven effective solutions with its more than 18,000 accredited healthcare organizations. Learn more about the Center at

About Medline Industries, Inc. 
Medline, the nation's largest privately held manufacturer and distributor of healthcare products, manufactures and distributes more than 100,000 products to hospitals, extended-care facilities, surgery centers, home care dealers and agencies. Headquartered in Mundelein, Ill., Medline has more than 900 dedicated sales representatives nationwide to support its broad product line and cost management services. For more information visit

Contact Information

  • Media Contacts:
    John Marks
    (847) 643-3309
    Jerreau Beaudoin
    (847) 643-3011