Infection Rates, Cleanliness Top the List of Factors Consumers Consider When Choosing a Hospital

PHILADELPHIA -- Consumers cite infection rates and cleanliness as two of the three most important factors when choosing a hospital, outranking other factors such as reputation and proximity, according to a survey released today by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania.

According to the survey, when information about hospital-acquired infection (HAI) rates is made available, patients are likely to choose institutions with the lowest rates. More than 30 states have either considered or are now considering legislation requiring public reporting of hospital acquired infection (HAI) rates. The survey also signaled that patient empowerment will play an increasingly important role in the HAI issue, with four in five consumers saying they would ask hospital staff to wash their hands, if prompted to do so.

As many as 2 million patients acquire infections in U.S. hospitals each year, resulting in 90,000 deaths annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the CDC has said hand hygiene is the single most important factor in reducing HAIs. In fact, infection control programs that include hand hygiene compliance measurement can reduce HAIs by one-third.

According to the survey:

Cleanliness tops the list of factors consumers consider when choosing a hospital. Survey respondents were asked how important each of a list of factors would be if they had to choose a new hospital right now. The vast majority (94 percent) rate clean as very important to their decision. Relatedly, 85 percent consider low infection rates very important in hospital selection. Cleanliness outranked the second most important factor, insurance coverage (88 percent), proximity (49 percent), and several other factors as reasons sited for selecting a particular hospital.

Access to hospital-infection-rate data will impact patients choices. The vast majority (93 percent) of consumers say knowing infection rates for a hospital or doctor would influence their selections. Nearly nine in ten (87 percent) say higher-than-average infection rates would be a very important reason to avoid a hospital. Four in five (79 percent) say lack of cleanliness would be a very important reason to avoid a hospital.

Patients arent afraid to demand better hand hygiene to help fight infection. Respondents were asked, If you were in a hospital, and the staff asked you to be a partner with them by reminding all your physicians, nurses, and other staff to wash or sanitize their hands before examining or treating you by saying, Did you wash or sanitize your hands, would you do this? Four in five (80 percent) consumers say they would.

Dr. Maryanne McGuckin, a senior researcher at the University of Pennsylvania and creator of the Partners in Your Care hand hygiene program, said the survey shows that patients will take matters into their own hands literally.

The results of this survey show that if armed with the right information, patients are willing to become a part of the solution, McGuckin said. Once we tell them that we welcome their reminders, patients will become active members of their healthcare team by asking their healthcare workers to wash their hands.

McGuckin, who served on the 2002 CDC task force that developed hand hygiene guidelines for healthcare workers, created Partners in Your Care to help fight HAIs. The program, which combines monitoring and patient empowerment, is used in more than 300 hospitals and has shown a mean improvement in hand hygiene compliance of 59 percent.

Today, many healthcare workers wash their hands less than 50 percent of the time between patient contacts either because they forget, their hands are too sore from previous washings with harsh products, or they mistakenly believe that gloves reduce the need for frequent hand washing, said Robert Mosher, vice president of applied infection control for STERIS Corporation, sponsor of Partners in Your Care. When patients and healthcare workers combine forces, we can reverse this trend and reduce HAIs, Mosher added.

Source: STERIS Corporation

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