Nav: Home

National hospital hand-washing campaign effective but expensive

February 18, 2016

Many hospital patients were protected from a dangerous bug and at least 96 years of life will be saved each year, said Professor Nicholas Graves from QUT's Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation (IHBI).

Professor Graves conducted an NHMRC-funded evaluation of the National Hand Hygiene Initiative in 50 Australian hospitals across all states and territories from 2009 to 2012, published this week in PLOS One.

The initiative promoted the 'five moments of hand-hygiene' to highlight critical times for health workers to wash their hands to control infection. It was found to be effective overall but it was an expensive programme costing around $2.9 million each year, Professor Graves said.

He said the National Hand Hygiene Initiative aimed to curb hospital-acquired infections and improve safety in hospitals.

"We know that healthcare costs are spiralling upwards and that we will never have enough money to fund all the prevention and treatment we would like," Professor Graves said.

"Health economists look at the cost-effectiveness, or value for money, of health interventions to identify where health dollars are being used efficiently.

"An example is that we know pregnant women should not smoke, but spending millions of dollars trying to convince a small number of women to stop could be a waste of money.

"The same money might achieve better value elsewhere in the health system, like preventing children from getting diabetes.

"Similarly, the national hand hygiene program has to stack up when compared to other health program we might like to fund."

For this evaluation the extra costs of the national hand hygiene program were calculated and compared to the extra years of life gained.

"Health economists use the concept of 'life years gained' to assess the health benefits of competing programs," Professor Graves said.

"We look for programs that provide extra years of life at the lowest cost, and we should pick the bargains first if we want to get the biggest bang for our health buck.

"The extra $2.9 million bought us only 96 years of life for the whole country, this is about $29,700 per life year gained.

"The cost effectiveness of the initiative varied across the states. Queensland, for example, got better value for money where it cost only $8,988 per life year gained, because infection rates were higher and therefore the initiative was more effective.

"But in Western Australia, where infection risks were already very low there were no cases prevented yet almost $600,000 was spent for nothing.

"A similar story emerged for Tasmania where no cases were prevented and $250,000 was spent. In the ACT where 10 cases were prevented it cost $1,030 per life year gained, and this was a true bargain.

"We can see that The National Hand Hygiene Initiative worked, but it was quite an expensive way to generate health benefits."

Professor Graves said other research that had evaluated a variety of interventions for prevention, screening, diagnosis, and treatment had shown life years could be gained for $18,720, and a large number of programs cost under $10,000 per life year.

"These findings suggest the National Hand Hygiene Initiative is effective but expensive. Policy makers could take note of the variability between states and tailor hand-hygiene campaigns to the local conditions."

QUT is one of five Australian universities that have come together to form the Australian Technology Network of Universities (ATN).

Queensland University of Technology

Related Hygiene Articles:

Even perfectly clean hands can lead to MRSA transmission in NICU babies
A new study led by Drexel University found that even if hospital workers follow handwashing guidelines as closely as possible, MRSA can still be transmitted among their newborn patients in the NICU.
Tailored preventive oral health intervention improves dental health among elderly
A tailored preventive oral health intervention significantly improved the cleanliness of teeth and dentures among elderly home care clients.
Dental hygiene, caveman style
Bits of wood recovered from a 1.2-million-year-old tooth found at an excavation site in northern Spain indicate that the ancient relatives of man may have use a kind of toothpick.
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine named University of the Year 2016
The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine has been awarded the prestigious University of the Year award at the Times Higher Education Awards 2016.
More than 3 million children under 5 years old will die from infectious diseases next year
A new report outlines the alarming burden of pediatric infectious diseases across the world.
More Hygiene News and Hygiene Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#534 Bacteria are Coming for Your OJ
What makes breakfast, breakfast? Well, according to every movie and TV show we've ever seen, a big glass of orange juice is basically required. But our morning grapefruit might be in danger. Why? Citrus greening, a bacteria carried by a bug, has infected 90% of the citrus groves in Florida. It's coming for your OJ. We'll talk with University of Maryland plant virologist Anne Simon about ways to stop the citrus killer, and with science writer and journalist Maryn McKenna about why throwing antibiotics at the problem is probably not the solution. Related links: A Review of the Citrus Greening...