Patient empowerment as a strategy to help prevent healthcare acquired infections

Dr Holly Seale

Senior Lecturer, University Of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, Australia


Introduction: Over the last decade, there has been a slow shift towards the more active engagement of patients and families in preventing healthcare associated infections (HCAI). This pilot study aimed to examine the receptiveness of hospital patients towards a new empowerment tool aimed at increasing awareness and engagement of patients in preventing HCAI.

Methods: Patients from the surgical department in a public hospital were recruited and randomized into two groups: active and control. Patients in the active arm were given an empowerment tool, while control patients continued with normal practices. Pre and post surveys were administered.

Results: At the baseline survey, just over half were ‘highly willing’ to assist with infection control strategies. Sixty-eight percent also agreed with the following statement: ‘I am confident I can help prevent or reduce the risk of catching an infection while at hospital’. Participants were significantly more likely to be willing to ask a doctor or nurse a factual question then a challenging question. Following discharge, 23/60 patients reported discussing a health concern with a staff member, however only three asked a staff member to wash their hands.

Conclusion: Our results suggest that patients would like to be more informed about HCAIs and are willing to engage with staff members to assist with the prevention of infections while in the hospital setting. Further work is going to need to be undertaken to ascertain the best strategies to promote engagement and participation in infection control activities.

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