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More Evidence That Hand Washing Really Works

A few months back, we wrote about one hospital’s very creative effort to get its medical staff to do a better job of washing their hands. Because so many people die in hospitals each year from bacterial infections they acquire while being treated for something else, the Institute of Medicine had sounded a loud alarm, urging all hospitals to do something about the problem.

One of the easiest ways to get a potentially fatal infection is if you have a central-line catheter put in; as many as 28,000 patients die each year from infections caused by the insertion of a central-line catheter.

The current New England Journal of Medicine reports on a study conducted in Michigan hospitals to see if increased vigilance on hand hygiene would cut down on the incidence of catheter infections.

And it worked, big-time. “The results are pretty breathtaking,” Dr. Peter Pronovost, a Johns Hopkins researcher and the lead author of the study told the Baltimore Sun. “The numbers of infections went down quickly and they stayed down.”