CAMLAW: Complementary and Alternative Medicine Law Blog

Therapy dogs, fresh flowers, and a healing environment reduce bacteria

Therapy dogs, fresh flowers, and a healing environment reduce bacteria, study of one observer shows.

Hats off to Nick (whoever he is), who wrote in response to a story from the Chief Executive Officer of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston on why doctors don't (but should) wash their hands:

'...in 1997 we became a Planetree Hospital. We have therapy dogs, fresh flowers everywhere, 24 hour visiting, decorative fountains, and I'm sure we don't wash our hands anymore than your staff, but our infection rate dropped to 1% and has stayed there for nearly 9 years. Oh, yeah, and it's not because we don't have complicated cases. Plus we get plenty of patients from the nursing homes with infections too. Pitt, Penn State and Georgia Tech are trying to figure us out . . . I think, by creating a healing environment, white blood cells get a chance to WORK, but, soon we can quantify this and will keep you posted.'

Do bugs have less energetic space to multiply when a hospital creates an optimal healing environment?

I don't think the experiment has been done, but it does not seem beyond the realm of biological plausibility.

At any rate, if you want to see a comparison of bacteria in a hospital petri dish with and without hand-washing, check out the original story from Running a Hospital. The article notes:

'....many infections in hospitals occur because of bacteria transferred from one patient to another when nurses or doctors do not wash their hands between seeing patients.

'The New England Journal of Medicine published an article on this topic in July, 2006, entitled "System Failure Versus Personal Accountability -- The Case for Clean Hands," by Doctor Donald Goldmann at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. His conclusion: "Each caregiver has the duty to perform hand hygiene -- pefectly and every time." "Yet, compliance with hand hygiene remains poor in most institutions -- often in the range of 40 to 50 percent."'

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