patients need to be aware of hidden hazards in the health care setting ii

Last time, our blog discussed how even though patients are becoming increasingly savvy when it comes to identifying certain care-related dangers and taking steps to protect themselves from these dangers, there are still other medical hazards that may not be obvious to them in any setting.

We also discussed how this reality places the onus on health care organizations to not only raise awareness, but also take steps to protect patients from these hazards to the fullest extent possible.

In today’s post, we’ll continue to examine these hazards.

Clothing and the risk of infection

When a health care professional enters the exam room wearing a nice shirt, wristwatch or piece of jewelry, it will more than likely catch the eye of the patient. However, according to a recent study by the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, these items can also catch harmful bacteria that can go on to spread harmful infections among unwitting patients.

While the idea of clothing and jewelry acting as bacteria vectors may seem farfetched, several other studies have detected the presence of harmful pathogens on everything from long sleeves to neckties.

It’s clear that health care organizations need to consider the idea of implementing a standardized dress code in which health care professionals wear short-sleeved scrubs or other specially laundered apparel that minimizes the risk of carrying and transmitting germs.

Indeed, it’s worth noting that lawmakers in the state of New York at one point considered legislation that would have banned neckties and required health care professionals to wear nothing below the elbow, claiming it could save lives.

Handshakes, elevators and the risk of infections

Additional research has established that it’s not just the clothing worn by health care professionals that presents an elevated risk of infection, but also their preferred form of greeting and certain surface areas.

Specifically, multiple studies have shown that handshakes with patients can transmit a significantly greater amount of bacteria than more non-standard greetings like high-fives or fist bumps.

Furthermore, one unsettling study found that the elevator buttons in hospitals often have higher levels of bacteria colonization than the standard toilet surface.

It’s clear that while health care organizations may not need to go so far as to ban handshakes or contact with elevator buttons by employees, it is nevertheless imperative to ensure that hand sanitizer dispensers are strategically placed throughout the facility and that the proper sterilization procedures are in place.

If you believe that hospital negligence played a role in the serious injuries you sustained or contributed to the loss of a loved one here in Pennsylvania, it’s imperative to discuss the matter with a dedicated legal professional.

Source: FierceHealthcare, “4 unexpected patient safety hazards,” Zack Budryk, Aug. 1, 2014

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