Joint Commission: Individual failure to wash hands will be cited as deficiency

The Joint Commission has adopted a stricter standard on hand hygiene for all its accreditation programs as of Jan. 1, warning healthcare organizations if surveyors observe one worker failing to wash their hands in the process of direct patient care, it will be cited as a deficiency.

This is a change from the previous standard, which cited facilities under infection prevention and control standards for failing to implement programs to improve hand hygiene. Individual instances where a worker didn’t comply with these standards weren’t enough to be cited, except in the commission’s accreditation programs for home care and ambulatory care.

The Joint Commission first introduced the requirements on hand hygiene in 2004—which it said has offered plenty of time for accredited organizations to train patient care workers to wash their hands as a means to prevent healthcare-associated infections (HAI).

“While there are various causes for HAI, the Joint Commission has determined that failure to perform hand hygiene associated with direct care of patients should no longer be one of them,” it said in a Jan. 1 update to its compliance standards.

A 2016 analysis by Consumer Reports gave low scores on HAI prevention to some of the nation’s most prominent academic medical centers. Some previously low-performing facilities had improved in part by placing a greater emphasis on hand washing, installing additional soap and alcohol gel dispensers and secretly monitoring staff to find workers who didn’t follow the hand hygiene protocol.