Sanitizer-Resistant Bacteria: What Now?

By Chris Hermann

A recent study reports that a specific bacterium has become more tolerant of alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Research found that Enterococcus faecium became more resistant to alcohol in two Australian hospitals between 1997 and 2015. This has been reported in a wide variety of consumer media, from CNN to NPR and more.

While it’s serious news, this isn’t the first time that hospitals have had to deal with bacteria that are tolerant of alcohol-based hand rubs. Clostridium difficile spores are removed most effectively by the physical act of washing hands with soap and water. Hospitals have already had to adapt to C. diff, so responding to E. faecium shouldn’t be terribly different.

As more bacteria become more resistant to traditional treatments, hospitals are having to adopt more flexible systems to address them. One-size-fits-all doesn’t work anymore.

In terms of hand hygiene reminder systems, our technology includes Adaptive Room Modes™, which allow clinicians to quickly change the status of a patient’s room from Normal to C. diff. When that happens, a provider leaving the room wouldn’t get credit for using sanitizer, and our Real-Time Voice Reminder™ would switch to remind them to use “soap and water only.”

Just as bacteria evolve, hospitals should adapt as well. Using technology to keep up with varying patient needs helps keep both patients and providers safer.

If you’d like to explore how our system typically doubles hand hygiene performance rates and reduces HAIs by up to 75-80%, here’s a brief video about how it works. Or here’s a white paper on How the New Joint Commission Hand Hygiene Standards Could Impact Your Hospital.

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