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Boston Business Journal: Brigham & Women’s: Crowded emergency rooms linked to infection

Brigham & Women’s: Crowded emergency rooms linked to infection

Emergency room crowding is putting patients at risk of hospital-acquired infections, according to a Brigham & Women’s study.

Julie M. Donnelly
Reporter – Boston Business Journal

Researchers at the Brigham and Women’s hospital    in Boston found that when patients are treated in emergency-room hallways due to overcrowding, health care workers are less likely to practice proper hand hygiene. The study was reported in the November issue of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, the journal of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America.

“We found that receiving care in a hallway bed was the strongest predictor of your health care providers not washing their hands,” study author Dr. Arjun Venkatesh said in a statement. The study, which includes 5,800 patient encounters, is the largest to-date evaluating hand hygiene in an emergency department, authors said. Venkatesh said he hopes the study will focus attention on infectious risks created by emergency room crowding, which is on the increase nationally and in Massachusetts.

Overall, appropriate hand washing practices were used 90 percent of the time, the study found. But researchers observed some providers using gloves instead of hand washing, which is insufficient for infection control.

The study also found that workers who transport patients between hospital departments and rooms were less likely to wash their hands compared to other health care workers. Researchers said these workers may be receiving inadequate training in hand hygiene procedures.

The authors hope the study will prompt research and quality improvements in understanding the role of the emergency department in health care associated infections.