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Handwashing in Hospital Critical- Every Time a Physicians Washes Their Hands Can Save $52 in Health Care Costs

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It is critical that all physicians, nurses, and visitors wash their hands every time they see a patient to prevent spread of bacteria, molds and viruses.  Hospital acquired infections kill 100,000 US patients annually in the USA.  Many infectious microorganisms such as Methacillin Resistant Staphyloccus aureus (MRSA), Vancomycin Resistant Enteroccoci (VRE), and Closteridium difficile are resistant to many antibiotics.  In the USA, rates of hospital acquired MRSA infections increased 3 fold in the period 1995-2005.

Many published studies have reported that regular handwashing by hospital staff and visitors can significantly reduce risk of hospital acquired infection cases and deaths.  In spite of the importance of handwashing to preventing spread of bad germs, many published studies have reported that physicians and nurses wash their hands less than 50% of time before seeing each patient.

Handwashing, better cleaning of hospital rooms, filtration of hospital air and other infection control measures can not only save many lives, they can save a lot of health care costs.  A study in a large North Carolina hospital calculated that each hospital MRSA infection resulted in about a $53,598 increase in hospital costs.  A handwashing program in this hospital significantly reduced hospital acquired infection rates.  It was estimated that every time a physician or nurse washed their hands there was a $52.53 reduced cost of hospital acquired infections. This research was published in the April 2010 Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.

Hospitalized patients and their family and friends should insist that all physicians, nurses and visitors wash their hands thoroughly before each patient visit.

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