How Basic Hand Hygiene Can Help Your ASC Fight Healthcare Acquired Infections

Each year more than 1.7 million patients in the United States acquire infections while in healthcare facilities. Refreshing basic steps for hand hygiene is crucial for the survival of the healthcare institution. Jane Kirk MSN, RN, CIC, recently advised GOJO Industries, a global producer and marketer of skin health and hygiene solutions for away-from-home settings, on how basic hand hygiene steps can help a facility fight healthcare acquired infections.

Infections can result in undesirable outcomes such as admission to a hospital after a procedure in the ASC, the rising cost of care, increased morbidity and mortality, and the pain, suffering and loss of livelihood a patient and family may experience. Going back to the basic steps of hand hygiene can be challenging for a facility's normal infection preventionists, but it can be done with administrative support. Here are three reasons and recommendations for investing in an infection control hand hygiene program.

1. Patient safety. According to a 2009 Joint Commission monograph on hand hygiene,[1] it is clear that administrative leaders are responsible for creating and maintaining a culture of safety and quality in the ASC. The administration is responsible for leading by example by performing hand hygiene and removing structural barriers to eliminate problems associated with inconvenient access to hand hygiene products. Accountability and consequences for hand hygiene non-compliance must be established.

2. Cost savings. Good infection control programs can save hundreds and thousands of dollars. A patient could acquire an infection from a surgical procedure in the ASC and be hospitalized with serious financial consequences. This leads to $26-$33 billion in excess healthcare costs. A patient who acquires a central line related bloodstream infection has an estimated excess cost of $36,441.[2] As a result of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, Medicare will no longer pay for the increased cost of certain conditions if the condition was not present on admission. The infection also increases the patient's length of stay by an average of 28.4 days, according to the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council.[3]

Administrators might view the infection control program as a cost center, because the costs cannot be passed onto anyone and they do not generate revenue. A better perspective on the infection control department is one of prevention and cost savings. With adequate resources, an infection control department can save a hospital hundreds of thousands of dollars.

3. Consumerism. Modern patients are accustomed to researching major purchases, and expect transparency when it comes to healthcare. Patients are now more likely to "shop" for their healthcare provider. Publications like Consumer's Reports have drawn attention to healthcare ratings,[4] and particularly advised patients to be wary of facilities that refuse to report their infection control and patient safety data. If ASCs invest in their infection control programs and institute practices across the board, there will be no need to hide anything. The ASC and administrators will be accountable and attractive to educated patients.

Learn more about GOJO Industries.



1: The Joint Commission. 2010 National Patient Safety Goals retrieved February 5, 2010 from:

2: Parekh, A. (2008). HHS Efforts to Reduce Healthcare-Associated Infections. Retrieved February 5, 2010 from:

3: Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council. PHC4 Research Brief, March 2006.

4: Consumer Reports (2010). Deadly infections: Hospitals can lower the risk, but many fail to act. Retrieved February 5, 2010 from:

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