Hand Hygiene and HAIs: The Facts


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In the U.S., healthcare associated infections (HAI's) affect more than 2 million people every year resulting in approximately 100,000 deaths.1

    • HAI’s lead to long-term disability, preventable deaths, and additional financial burden on the healthcare system.6

    • An HAI increases the average length of stay 7.4 to 9.4 days and the risk of morbidity by 35%.9

    • Compliance by healthcare workers with optimal hand hygiene is considered to be less than 40%.7

    • Several studies of hand washing in high-acuity units with vulnerable patients have found that as few as one in seven staff members wash their hands between patients: compliance rates in the range of 15% - 35% are typical; rates above 40% are the exception.10-11

    • It is well established that the hands of HCWs are the principal cause of transmission of infection from patient to patient.9

    • Hand hygiene, a very simple action, remains the primary means to reduce HAI’s and the spread of antimicrobial resistant organisms.2-5

    • Global research indicates that improvements in hand hygiene activities could potentially reduce HAI rates by up to 50%.4,8

1Klevens RM, Edwards JR, Richards CL, Jr., et al. Estimating health care-associated infections and deaths in U.S. hospitals, 2002. Public Health Rep 2007; 122:160-166.

2 Pittet D, Mourouga P, Perneger TV. Compliance with handwashing in a teaching hospital: infec­tion control program. Ann Intern Med. 1999;130(2):126-130.

3 World Health Organisation. WHO Guidelines on Hand Hygiene in Health Care. Ge­neva, Switzerland: World Health Organisation; 2009. http://whqlibdoc.who.int/publica­tions/2009/9789241597906_eng.pdf. Accessed July 15, 2009.

4 Pittet D, Hugonnet S, Harbarth S, Mourouga P, Sauvan V, Touveneau S, Perneger TV. Effective­ness of a hospital-wide programme to improve compliance with hand hygiene. Infection Control Programme. Lancet 2000 Oct 14;356(9238):1307-12.

5 Sax H, Allegranzi B, Uçkay I, Larson E, Boyce J, Pittet D. ‘My five moments for hand hygiene’: a user-centred design approach to understand, train, monitor and report hand hygiene. J Hosp Infect. 2007 Sep;67(1):9-21. Epub 2007 Aug 27.

6Backman, Chantal, RN, BScN, MHA “Patient Safety: It’s in your hands!” PowerPoint presentation, slide 15.

7Gautham Suresh, M.D., D.M., M.S., Cahill, John, M.D., “National Patient Safety Goals. How ‘User Friendly’ is the Hospital for Practicing Hand Hygiene?: An Ergonomic Evaluation.” The Joint Commision Journal on Quality and Patient Safety 33. 3 (March 2004).

8Brachman PS, Dan BB, Haley RW, Hooten TM, Farner JS, Allen JR. Nosocomial surgical infections: incidence and cost. Surg Clin North Am 1980;60:15-25.

9Larson, E. (1988). A causal link between handwashing and risk of infection? Examine the evidence. Infection Control, 9(1), 28-36.

10Albert. R.K. & Condie, F. (1981). Handwashing patterns in medical intensive-care units. New England Journal of Medicine, 304(24), 1465-1466.

11Graham, M. (1990). Frequency and duration of handwashing in an intensive care unit. American Journal of Infection Control, 18(2), 77-81.