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  • Give Your Patients a (Clean) Hand

    If you find yourself being asked to wash your hands by your next patient, don’t take it personally: patients are increasingly becoming more assertive about seeing to it that health care providers have washed their hands before beginning treatment. You might even say the trend is contagious.

    According to a recent story in the Wall Street Journal, studies show that despite broad understanding of the importance of hand-washing, health care providers manage to wash their hands only about half of the time necessary to control infection. Now patients, encouraged by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Association for Professional in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APICE), are taking matters into their own hands, so to speak.

    CDC has created a video for patients, "Hand Hygiene Saves Lives," that urges patients to not be shy about requesting that a health care provider wash his or her hands in the patient's presence. Patients who watched the video became less hesitant to make the request. This month, APICE is launching a public education effort on the importance of hand-washing by health care providers.

    This kind of patient empowerment still may have a long way to go. According to a recent study in Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, nearly one-third of patients reported that their providers failed to wash their hands. Of the patients who saw the lapse, nearly two-thirds stayed silent.

    Hand washing is crucial in all patient care settings, and APTA offers resources on hygiene from the CDC, including guidelines on infection control for all health care professionals.

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