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J Hosp Infect. 2006 Mar;62(3):304-10. Epub 2006 Jan 10.

How much time is needed for hand hygiene in intensive care? A prospective trained observer study of rates of contact between healthcare workers and intensive care patients.

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Department of Anaesthetics, Critical Care and Pain Medicine, Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh, UK.


There are few data measuring rates of contact by healthcare workers (HCWs) with intensive care unit (ICU) patients (direct contacts) and their immediate environment (indirect contacts), or estimates of the time needed for 100% hand hygiene compliance. We measured this using a prospective trained observer study in a 12-bedded UK adult general ICU admitting > 600 mixed medical/surgical patients annually. HCWs were observed in ICU bed spaces for 1-h periods by a single researcher using a pre-determined plan, such that all 12 beds were observed for similar times and throughout the day. Mean daily rates of direct and indirect contact between HCWs and ICU patients were calculated. Observed post-contact hand hygiene compliance was also measured. Numbers of contacts/day that were or were not followed by hand hygiene, and estimates of the time needed daily for 100% compliance were calculated. On average, each patient was contacted directly 159 [95% confidence intervals (CI) 144-178] times and contacted indirectly 191 (95% CI 174-210) times/day. Observed post-contact hand hygiene rates were 43% for direct contacts and 12% for indirect contacts. Staff contacting more than one patient during routine care, who carry the highest risk of transmitting infection between patients, made, on average, 22 direct and 107 indirect contacts without adequate hand hygiene/patient/day. One hundred percent hand hygiene compliance by all healthcare workers would require about 230 min/patient/day (100 min for direct and 130 min for indirect contacts).

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