A research team -- jointly led by Laurie Conway, a doctoral candidate at Columbia University and Dr. Benedetta Allegranzi of the World Health Organization's infection control program Clean Care is Safer Care -- surveyed compliance with WHO hand hygiene guidelines at a sample of 168 facilities in 42 states and Puerto Rico.
The study, published in the American Journal of Infection Control, found overall, 77.5 percent of facilities reported that alcohol-based sanitizer was continuously available at every point of care.
Hand hygiene is critical to preventing healthcare-associated infections, which kill about 100,000 people a year in the United States and cost about $33 billion to treat.
In addition, about 1-in-10 facilities reported that senior leaders such as the chief executive officer, medical director and director of nursing didn't make a clear commitment to support hand hygiene improvement.
"When hospitals don't focus heavily on hand hygiene, that puts patients at unnecessary risk for preventable healthcare associated infections," Conway said in statement.
"The tone for compliance with infection control guidelines is set at the highest levels of management and our study also found that executives aren't always doing all that they can to send a clear message that preventing infections is a priority."
Hand hygiene compliance is the responsibility of every healthcare worker, U.S. healthcare facilities would certainly benefit from coordinated national and sub-national efforts aimed at hand hygiene improvement, said study co-author Dr. Didier Pittet, director, Infection Control Program and WHO Collaborating Center on Patient Safety, University of Geneva Hospitals and Faculty of Medicine, Geneva, Switzerland.