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Ways in which patients can become involved in their own care is a constant source of discussion.

Often times that discussion may revolve around preventive care, and how patients can take action toward preventing possible illness when outside the four walls.

However, not quite as often, is preventive action discussed while patients are within a health care setting.

There tends to be an assumption that hospitals are sterile, the most cleanly… and they surely strive to be.

Yet, there are instances of patients acquiring new illnesses and infections during their clinical stay.

According to a recent article from Fierce Healthcare, citing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, infections acquired during hospital stays cost the United States approximately $30 billion per year, and are the cause of approximately 100,000 fatalities annually.

To address this issue, and prevent additional accounts of infection, healthcare professionals look to be meticulous in both hygiene and process.


For hygiene, medical professionals are instructed to wash their hands before examinations, scrub thoroughly before procedures, receive vaccines (like those for influenza), to keep nails short and unpolished, etc.

And they are instructed to pay attention to their processes, even when they feel routine – to be weary of infections during surgery and to pay attention to inserting central lines.

However, some hospitals are finding compliance with necessary precautions is highest when patients are involved in the process of prevention as well.

At Emory Healthcare in Atlanta, providers educate patients about the importance of proper hygiene and encourage their participation:

“What I think is particularly effective is when healthcare providers say, 'Hey, by the way, if you ever see me forget to do hand hygiene, would you remind me?' William Bornstein, M.D., chief quality and medical officer of Atlanta's Emory Healthcare, told the Star Tribune.”

Additionally, posters fill their hall ways encouraging discussion.

Similarly, Sentra Healthcare of Virginia and North Carolina is using nurse-led discussions to increase hand washing compliance.

Patients discuss the form of hygiene with nurses, and they stress both providers AND patients are accountable – encouraging them to speak up to physicians and instruct them to wash their hands should they have forgotten.

Yet, some feel that putting the burden on patients is wrong – that patients should be able to trust that their health system is taking the proper precautions, and those systems should increase attention on compliance if it is an issue.

"In some ways it says to patients, 'This is your responsibility for us to do things safely for you, including hand hygiene,” said Robert Wachter, M.D., professor at the University of California, San Francisco and a leading patient safety expert. "Why should it be the job of the patients or family members to make sure everybody cleans their hands? That's the job of the system."

What do you think? Should both patients and providers partake in preventing infections from hospital stays?

Tell us in the comments.