DIV18/06: Protecting People With Simpler Hand Hygiene (4 April 2018)

Issue Date: 4 April 2018
Ref: DIV18/06

Protecting People With Simpler Hand Hygiene

Hand hygiene has never been so important. Studies suggest around 80 per cent of all infectious diseases – including Influenza and the common cold - are spread by touch. This link has been known for years, so it is perhaps all the more surprising that so few people wash their hands after going to the toilet or before handling food. Apparently, just 39 per cent of us – fewer than four in ten – wash our hands before eating.

Sadly, news about some outbreak or another is never very far away. The UK has recently experienced the worst winter flu season this decade so it would seem there is more work to be done. Improving hand hygiene would not only reduce suffering and save lives but lessen the burden on healthcare services and minimise the impact on our families, friends and work colleagues when we become ill.

Hand hygiene should be so simple that there is no reason not to do it. Up to 100,000 bacteria can live on each square centimetre of skin. Not all are bad but it only takes a few to survive and multiply for an illness to take hold. Products must therefore be effective but they must also be safe. There should also be choice of products to suit different applications.

It is tempting to encourage more frequent hand washing in every setting but this is not always ideal. In healthcare, for example, staff should wash their hands between every patient contact. That can mean a lot of washing during a normal day. That can be time-consuming but additionally conventional soaps can strip natural oils which protect the skin, leading to an increased risk of damage through conditions such as dermatitis. Under these circumstances the wise advice is to use a hand sanitiser that kills pathogens faster than soap without removing protective oils.

Whatever products are chosen, they must be available and ready to use whenever required. Dispensers must be situated conveniently to encourage regular and proper use. At the same time, they should ideally contain enough product to prolong the interval between refills and therefore minimise the risk of outages and reduce necessary restocking burdens.

Another way to encourage compliance is to monitor usage. While it is rarely desirable to monitor individuals, it is helpful to know how often a particular dispenser has been used and how much product has been consumed. In a hospital, for example, knowing how many times a dispenser has been used and comparing this with the number of patient contacts by nurses would give a reasonable indication of whether the team has been complying with agreed standards. If not, additional awareness and training can be provided and the subsequent change in usage patterns assessed.

Managing these challenges is behind the concept of Diversey’s new IntelliCare system. The dispenser can be used with a wide range of hand care products – soaps, washes and sanitisers – so that operators can choose the one most suited to their specific requirement. Each product is supplied in the same design and size of pouch to enable interchangeability and flexibility. The pouches are larger than average which, combined with the dispenser’s excellent dosing control, ensures the maximum interval between refills. 

Alerts generated by the dispenser warn the operator before the battery or pouch needs replacing. This helps ensure continuity of hand care product availability. The dispenser automatically switches between automatic and manual mode in the unlikely event of battery failure to ensure users can still access the product. Finally, the dispenser provides feedback on the number of doses and the amount of product used, allowing supervisors to assess usage patterns. The next-generation of the IntelliCare dispenser will also be Internet of Clean enabled to allow remote monitoring.