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'First-Person View' of Pathogen Transmission and Hand Hygiene

Healthcare workers’ hands are the foremost means of pathogen transmission in healthcare, but detailed hand trajectories have been insufficiently researched so far. Clack, et al. (2017) developed and applied a new method to systematically document hand-to-surface exposures (HSE) to delineate true hand transmission pathways in real-life healthcare settings.

A head-mounted camera and commercial coding software were used to capture ten active care episodes by eight nurses and two physicians and code HSE type and duration using a hierarchical coding scheme. The researchers identified HSE sequences of particular relevance to infectious risks for patients based on the WHO ‘Five Moments for Hand Hygiene.' The study took place in a trauma intensive care unit in a 900-bed university hospital in Switzerland.

Overall, the 10 videos totaled 296.5 min and featured eight nurses and two physicians. A total of 4222 HSE were identified (1 HSE every 4.2 s), which concerned bare (79%) and gloved (21%) hands. The HSE inside the patient zone (n = 1775; 42%) included mobile objects (33%), immobile surfaces (5%), and patient intact skin (4%), while HSE outside the patient zone (n = 1953; 46%) included HCW’s own body (10%), mobile objects (28%), and immobile surfaces (8%). A further 494 (12%) events involved patient critical sites. Sequential analysis revealed 291 HSE transitions from outside to inside patient zone, i.e. “colonization events”, and 217 from any surface to critical sites, i.e. “infection events”. Hand hygiene occurred 97 times, 14 (5% adherence) times at colonization events and three (1% adherence) times at infection events. On average, hand rubbing lasted 13 ± 9 s.

The researchers say that the abundance of HSE underscores the central role of hands in the spread of potential pathogens while hand hygiene occurred rarely at potential colonization and infection events. They say their approach produced a valid video and coding instrument for in-depth analysis of hand trajectories during active patient care that may help to design more efficient prevention schemes.

Reference: Clack L, et al. “First-person view” of pathogen transmission and hand hygiene – use of a new head-mounted video capture and coding tool. Antimicrobial Resistance & Infection Control. 2017;6:108

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