How clean is your office?

By Terry A. Rondberg

Like many wellness practitioners, I don’t believe in the traditional “germ theory.” Of course I know germs exist, but I don’t think they “cause” illness. The true cause is the inability of the human body to deal with germs and counter their effects. After all, if germs were the actual root cause of illness, everyone who came into contact with them would be ill — that is, ALL of us!

Hand hygeineHaving said that, most of the people we see in our offices have impaired immune systems, to some degree or another. The existence of subluxations; the lack of proper diet or exercise; the overuse of antibiotics; and even physical, mental or emotional stress can all weaken the immune system to the point where the body is vulnerable to the impact of germs and viruses.

That’s why proper infection control procedures are critical in any wellness office. Unfortunately, this basic tenet of hygiene is often overlooked in medical settings. In fact, a report published in the June 9 issue of JAMA found that such lapses were common in many of the 70 ambulatory surgical centers studied. These centers are rapidly becoming the primary facility for a wide variety of medical and surgical procedures that don’t require hospitalization. In 2007, these facilities performed more than 6 million procedures including endoscopy, pain injections, and dental procedures.

The problem is, these places are often germ breeding environments where medical personnel don’t adhere to basic infection control procedures such as washing their hands.

Melissa K. Schaefer, MD, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, and colleagues conducted the study and assessed procedures in five different categories: hand hygiene, injection safety and medication handling, equipment reprocessing, environmental cleaning, and handling of blood glucose monitoring equipment.

More than half of the facilities (67.6%) studied had at least one lapse in infection control noted by surveyors and 17.6% of the facilities had lapses identified in three or more categories.

Nearly one in five facilities (19.4%) didn’t properly apply “hand hygiene” (a euphemism for washing hands!) or use proper personal protective equipment such as gloves. More than one quarter of them (28.4%) had deficiencies related to injection practices or medication handling, primarily through use of single-dose vials for more than one patient.

Another 28.4% of these facilities failed to adhere to recommended practices regarding reprocessing of surgical equipment; and 18.8% didn’t properly clean high-touch surfaces in patient care areas.

Thankfully, chiropractors don’t have to be concerned with the high risk procedures involving injections and drugs, but tables and other high-touch surfaces need to be kept clean and disinfected.

The recommendations given by researchers from Parker Chiropractic College — published in Chiropractic & Osteopathy in 2007 — are excellent. They stated:

“Pathogenic microbes may be present on chiropractic treatment tables and can be effectively killed with proper disinfecting. Hand washing/sanitizing is an important measure in infection control as is table disinfecting. Rudimentary behavioral changes to improve chiropractic clinic infection control are needed. More comprehensive behavioral models are needed. All teaching clinics and private chiropractic offices should adopt infection control practices including routine table disinfecting and hand sanitizing. Effective measures can be put in place at minimal costs.”

References: JAMA. 2010;303[22]:2273-2279 — Abstract

“Assessment and risk reduction of infectious pathogens on chiropractic treatment tables,” Chiropractic & Osteopathy 2007