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How the healthcare system may cause harm – Part III

Those seeking treatment at healthcare facilities in Queens likely have the expectation that not only are the environments in which they are cared for clean and sterilized, but that those who will be working with them practice good hygiene, as well. Some may point to statistics recently released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing decreases in the number of healthcare-associated infections across the board as proof that these are ceasing to become a concern for patients in the U.S. Yet the fact remains that 721,800 patients still contract infections while receiving treatment in America.

According to information shared by the World Health Organization, the most common method of transmission of healthcare-associated pathogens is through the hands of healthcare workers. It breaks down this pathway of contamination as follows:

  •          Infectious agents are present on or around patients.
  •          Those agents are transferred to the hands of the healthcare workers treating the patients.
  •          The organisms comprising those agents are able to survive for several minutes while in contact with healthcare workers’ skin.
  •          The agents are passed on to another patient via a healthcare worker’s contaminated hands.

A seemingly simple way to prevent the spread of infection in a healthcare setting is proper handwashing. However, WHO data shows compliance to handwashing standards by healthcare workers to be only 38.7 percent on average, with some only taking just over 6 seconds to cleanse their hands when washing. These statistics include information gathered from both developing nations as well as developed countries like the U.S.

Healthcare facilities are required to have protocols in place to help prevent the spread of HAIs. However, as the aforementioned information seems to imply, patient participation may also be required to ensure providers follow safe hygiene practices. 

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