3 COVID-19 Takeaways and Tips

By Madison Pittman

The United States has been battling COVID-19 for over six months now, and one thing has become clear: COVID is not going away any time soon. From healthcare facilities to local businesses and schools, everyone is scrambling to adapt to the new normal. As with anything, there is often a lot of misinformation floating around, and it can be hard figure out what’s really going on. At Clean Hands – Safe Hands, we thought we would do a round-up of three major things we’ve seen going on and offer our tips on staying safe in a COVID world moving forward.

1. Hand Hygiene Performance is Dropping in Hospitals

Despite the fact that everyone is talking about hand hygiene more than ever, hand hygiene performance is dropping in hospitals. One might assume that with a raised awareness of the importance of hand hygiene, performance would improve, but that’s just not the case. Data from the Clean Hands – Safe Hands system indicates that providers are not cleaning their hands any more than they normally do, in fact, many are cleaning their hands less.

Hospitals in the first phase of the Clean Hands – Safe Hands Hand Hygiene Acceleration Pathway™ do not have the Natural Language Voice Reminder™ turned on which gently reminds providers in the moment if they forget to sanitize. In this phase, the goal is to collect the hospital’s hand hygiene data and establish their baseline of performance.

All facilities with the voice reminder turned off experienced a decrease or no change in hand hygiene when COVID hit. The graph below represents this data, aggregated for all facilities.

So what’s the key to improving hand hygiene performance is hospitals fighting COVID-19? In the moment reminders. While reminders can be done many ways like beeps or dings, we’ve found most sounds contribute to alarm fatigue. The best way to remind a provider in the moment when they’ve forgotten to sanitize is by voice. That’s why the Natural Language Voice Reminder™ is so effective in increasing hand hygiene performance. In fact, while the hospitals without a voice reminder all experienced a dip in hand hygiene, all hospitals with a voice reminder experienced a bump in hand hygiene when COVID hit. Check out this free resource to learn more about this surprising data.

2. Gloves are not an Alternative to Performing Proper Hand Hygiene

We’ve all seen it. You’re browsing the produce section of the grocery store and someone has on a pair of gloves. You watch them examine several pieces of fruit by hand before finally making their selection, then they touch their cart, then they return to the produce. You get the point. From the produce aisle to the frontlines of patient care in hospitals, there is a common misconception that wearing gloves provides adequate protection from COVID-19, but that’s not the case.

In reality, the highly contagious coronavirus can live on the outside of gloves and other surfaces. Healthcare professionals that think they’re protected may leave their gloves on when leaving one patient’s room and entering another which increases the risk of cross contamination. They can even infect themselves if they rub their eyes or touch their face while wearing contaminated gloves.

Wearing gloves does not eliminate the need to perform hand hygiene. In fact, gloves require you to sanitize more. Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), hands should be sanitized before donning gloves and after glove removal.

Many providers are simply unaware of their hospital’s hand hygiene policies.  Even highly experienced doctors often do not realize that they are required to clean their hands before and after putting on gloves and after removal. In a meeting with Clean Hands – Safe Hands, a well-respected doctor who is on the hospital’s infection control and quality control boards, made this common mistake, saying:

“I love the system, but every time I take my gloves off, [the Natural Language Voice Reminder™] tells me to wash my hands. Is there any way you guys can fix that?”

The hospital’s infection prevention director stepped in to explain why hand hygiene is necessary after glove removal. The physician started washing his hands after glove removal, and the problem was solved.

Check out this free resource to learn more about the dangers of improperly using gloves in a COVID environment.

3. Contact Tracing is Essential in Stopping the Nosocomial Spread (and Possible)

The wide range of symptoms that individuals with COVID-19 exhibit makes it impossible for hospitals to accurately screen everyone upon entering the facility. As a result, patients with COVID might be admitted into the hospital without proper isolation protocols and later diagnosed. This creates a huge problem for the facility. They have to scramble to determine who came in contact with the contagious patient and how often, who needs to be isolated or monitored closely, and which providers can safely return to work.

Unfortunately, many hospitals have accepted that these questions are impossible to answer, and they have to make tough calls without data to back up their decisions. Facilities could save a lot of time and money if they could quickly pinpoint exactly who came in contact with the patient and how often. With this information, hospital leadership could make informed decision about who to isolate, and perhaps more importantly, who can safely continue working.

The Clean Hands – Safe Hands system makes contact and exposure tracing headache free. The system automatically collects data related to provider visits which facilities can leverage to make informed decisions.

Clean Hands – Safe Hands customers can pull up contact tracing information for each patient. The image below shows a list and pie chart of each provider that interacted with the contagious patient. The chart makes it clear that Courtney Schuppe had the most interactions with the patient. Unit leaders can take this information and make decisions accordingly.

This information is invaluable to hospitals. This data allows leadership to quickly identify which providers were not exposed to the patient. At a time when provider shortages are a growing concern, identifying which providers are likely safe to continue working is imperative. It is certainly not practical to quarantine a whole shift of providers who might have been exposed, and technology makes these determinations easy.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 is not going away, and hospitals have to adapt to the new normal. With flu season on the horizon, it’s more important than ever to have systems in place that make fighting infection easier. Improving hand hygiene, practicing appropriate glove use, and contact tracing are just a few ways that Clean Hands – Safe Hands customers can innovatively keep both patients and providers safe. To learn more about how Clean Hands – Safe Hands helps battle COVID-19, check out this free resource or contact us.

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