If there is one issue in the patient-doctor relationship that defies all reason, it is this: why don't doctors wash their hands more?
Over the last 30 years, despite countless efforts at change, poor hand hygiene has continued to contribute to the high rates of infections acquired in hospitals, clinics and other health care settings. According to the World Health Organization, these infections affect as many as 1.7 million patients in the U.S. each year, racking up an annual cost of $6.5 billion and contributing to more than 90,000 deaths annually.
But there is one place where doctors and other caregivers have maintained the highest levels of hand hygiene and defied these grim statistics. That place is the operating room.
What is it about O.R.’s?
In this week’s “Doctor and Patient” column, I write about maintaining sterile technique in the operating room and the new effort of the Joint Commission, the nation’s most important hospital accrediting agency, to change how health care workers and systems approach hand hygiene. Why haven’t we been able to get doctors and other caregivers to wash their hands more? And is it possible to change? I'd love to know what you think. Please leave your comments below or on Tara Parker-Pope’s “Well” blog.