Healthcare providers use stethoscopes repeatedly throughout the day on numerous patients. Yet, according to a report published in the July issue of the American Journal of Infection Control, the official journal of the Association for Professional in Infection Control and Epidemiology, doctors and nurses rarely sanitize their stethoscopes after each patient encounter. This lack of proper hygiene can put patients at risk for developing serious infections.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidelines that say that all reusable medical equipment, including stethoscopes, must be disinfected between patient encounters. People may not realize that stethoscopes can spread infection since they are only used on the skin’s surface. However, after repeated use, they can become contaminated, and should be treated as potential methods of infection transmission. According to the 2017 President of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC), when stethoscopes are not properly disinfected between patients, it creates a patient safety issue that is in line with failing to wash hands after a patient interaction.
Stethoscope Hygiene as Important as Washing Hands
Hand hygiene has always received a great deal of attention, especially during cold and flu season. However, stethoscope hygiene does not get the same attention, even though unsanitized stethoscopes can spread infections in the same way an unwashed hand can. In fact, data shows that stethoscope contamination after one patient exam is similar to the amount of pathogens that are present on a physician’s dominant hand. Common pathogens that were found on stethoscopes include Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Clostridium difficile, and vancomysin-resistant entrococci. A separate study found that contaminated stethoscopes were capable of spreading methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a potentially antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
The authors of the report focused on a tertiary care academic teaching hospital, where they observed the hygiene habits of medical students, resident physicians, and attending physicians over a four-week rotation. They analyzed stethoscope hygiene, as well as hand hygiene, both of which included alcohol gel or soap and water. The authors found that the baseline number of staff who sanitized their stethoscopes was at zero.
In response to this, the research team attempted to educate the healthcare professionals about the importance of sanitizing stethoscopes after each patient encounter, and discussing the potential spread of infection. There were still zero occurrences of stethoscope sanitation, even after researchers suggested that they may monitor their progress in a follow-up phase. Like hand-washing, it is a simple, yet effective, way of preventing the spread of infection that can threaten patients’ health and safety.
Baltimore Medical Malpractice Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Advocate for Victims of Medical Negligence
If you or a loved one has developed a serious infection from an unsanitized stethoscope or any other medical device used by a healthcare professional, do not hesitate to contact the Baltimore medical malpractice lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. We will thoroughly investigate the details of your case and determine who is responsible for your illness. We will work tirelessly to obtain the maximum financial compensation you deserve. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.
Our offices are located in Baltimore, Columbia, Glen Burnie, and Towson, allowing us to represent medical malpractice victims in Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Southern Maryland, and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood, and Elkridge.