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Hand hygiene initiative successful but not economical

Hand washing initiative successful but not economical - Featured Image

A study has found the Australian National Hand Hygiene initiative run in hospitals was a successful program, protecting many hospital patients from dangerous bugs.

However at $2.9 million a year, it was found to be an expensive program to run.

The NHMRC-funded evaluation of the program that ran in 50 hospitals across Australian from 2009 – 2012 was published in PLOS One.

The aim of the program was to reduce healthcare associated Staphylococcus aureus bacteraemia and one of the key messages from the initiative was the ‘five moments of hand-hygiene’ which highlighted critical times for health workers to wash their hands to control infection.

Related: Doctors drag chain on hand hygiene

Professor Nicholas Graves from QUT’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation (IHBI) said the program didn’t stack up against other health care programmes that might need to be funded.

“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.

Related: Doctors reject hand hygiene reminders

“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 value for money varied across the states. In Queensland, the program got better value per month however in Western Australia the infection risk was very low and there were no new cases prevented, meaning almost $600,000 got spent for nothing.

As a comparison, Professor Graves said other research that looked at 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.

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