Hospital-acquired infections are a major concern in healthcare facilities, affecting at least 2 million patients annually and resulting in extended durations of care and substantial morbidity. Such infections are estimated to cause or contribute to 88,000 deaths annually in the US, as well as requiring nearly $5 billion in treatment costs. The incidence of infections in acute care facilities is about 9.8 infections per 1,000 patient care days and in long-term care facilities, approximately 7.2 infections per 1,000 resident care days. Maximizing Hand-Hygiene Compliance to Improve Outcomes: A New Tool for Infection Control

Last month I had occasion to spend a couple of weeks in and around Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, where my daughter was a patient. As a teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School, Mass General has always been a leader in setting the highest standard of care in medical practice.
One simple thing I observed struck me as different from many other hospitals I have visited. Outside the door of every patient room, and at every entrance to a patient floor, there was a conveniently located dispenser of hand sanitizer. Every time a doctor or nurse entered my daughter’s room, they were rubbing hand sanitizer on their hands. After surgery, prophylactic antibiotics were prescribed for a period of time after discharge.
In most hospitals I have visited, if there is a hand sanitizer dispenser available it tends to be mounted by a sink in the patient’s room and seldom used. My daughter went from Mass General to another hospital in another state for another surgery. I don’t intend to pursue it or go to the trouble to closely analyze it, but I did note that the degree of fanatical attention to infection prevention we saw at Mass General was not followed at the second hospital. A few days after the second surgery she did get a staph infection and an epidural abscess in the incision site of the first surgery.
A lot of doctors consider hospital acquired infections, such as staph infections, unavoidable risks of any hospitalization. Some think prevention is attainable.
Those Harvard doctors are pretty smart. It would be interesting to compare the infection complication rates at Mass General with that of other hospitals where those rigid precautions are not followed.
The Centers for Disease Control Guideline for Hand Hygiene in Healthcare Settings says that “If hands are not visibly soiled, caregivers should use an alcohol-based waterless antiseptic agent for routinely decontaminating hands.” That’s what they do at Mass General, and it’s what I’m doing now at home in changing my daughter’s IV pump every day, whether the nurses tell us to or not.

The Shigley Law Firm represents plaintiffs in wrongful death and catastrophic injury cases statewide in Georgia, and in other states subject to the multijurisdictional practice and pro hac vice rules in each state. Ken Shigley was designated as a “SuperLawyer” in Atlanta Magazine and one of the “Legal Elite” in Georgia Trend Magazine. He is a Certified Civil Trial Advocate of the National Board of Trial Advocacy, Chair of the Southeastern Motor Carrier Liability Institute and former chair of the Georgia Insurance Law Institute. He particularly focuses on cases arising from truck wrecks and accidents (tractor trailers truck wrecks, semi truck wrecks,18 wheeler truck wrecks, big rig truck wrecks, log truck wrecks, dump truck wrecks).