Clean Care is Safer Care

Patients have a voice too!

The WHO Guidelines on Hand Hygiene in Health Care (2009) encourage partnership between patients, their families, and health-care workers to promote hand hygiene in health-care settings.
Patient participation/engagement/empowerment in hand hygiene promotion refers to the involvement of patients in the fostering of hand hygiene best practices by both patients and health-care workers in health-care settings.

The goals are:

  • To implement a true safety culture in which both patients, (and their relatives and visitors) and health-care workers work together towards strengthening infection prevention and control and promoting hand hygiene best practices.
  • While the responsibility for hand hygiene rests firmly with the health-care worker, to encourage patients to support health-care workers in improving hand hygiene in various ways, such as learning about hand hygiene best practices and reminding or evaluating hand hygiene.
  • The ultimate goal is to improve hand hygiene and prevent health care-associated infections.

Patient participation/engagement/empowerment is part of the WHO call to action on 5 May 2013!

The central role patients and consumers can play in efforts to improve the quality and safety of health care around the world, is also emphasized by the WHO Patients for Patient Safety Programme.

According to a new survey conducted by WHO and its Collaborating Centre on Patient Safety, the University of Geneva Hospitals, in 260 facilities from 41 countries, patient participation is perceived as a useful strategy contributing to hand hygiene improvement among health workers and to the creation of a positive patient safety climate in the facilities implementing it.

To make it happen in your health-care facility you can:

  • Empower patients and their family and visitors to proactively help to ensure that hand hygiene is performed at the right times and in the right way, guided always by the patients willingness to participate.
  • Engage patient organizations to assist with patient advocacy or education, or to lobby for funding and/or improved facilities.
  • Secure the full support of institutional leaders (e.g. hospital director, CEO, senior nurse) in pursuing patient engagement and empowerment if this is considered appropriate.
  • Focus on activity designed to ensure buy-in of health-care workers to support greater engagement and empowerment of patients in hand hygiene improvement.

Critical issues to address:

  • Patient engagement endeavours must fit within a broader, global hand hygiene promotion framework.
  • Patients can be empowered only after having gathered enough information, understood how to use the information, and being convinced that this knowledge gives them the opportunity, and the right, to participate in helping to keep health care safe while not deflecting the responsibility away from their health-care workers.
  • Patients are more likely to participate if they feel authorized and supported to do so by their health-care workers. As a consequence, the successful set-up of a patient empowerment strategy requires the full support of health-care workers across all levels of the organization. Information sessions may be required to reassure health-care workers as to the goals of the strategy, i.e. reduction of harm to patients, and to win their full support.
  • Facilities may also consider collaborating with an independent third-party patient organization. Patient organizations can help to reach patients, carers and the wider public, helping to build a safety climate.

Resources to support patient participation in hand hygiene programmes

Inventory of patient stories

See web sites featuring videos and stories of patients affected by health care-associated infection and/or involved in hand hygiene promotion. These can be very powerful for health-care workers’ training and patients’ awareness raising and empowerment.