Innovative Approach Spurs More Hand Hygiene Compliance in Hospital

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Hand hygiene is one of the most important ways to prevent the spread of infection, and yet it can be one of the most difficult benchmarks to improve.
Hand hygiene is one of the most important ways to prevent the spread of infection, and yet it can be one of the most difficult benchmarks to improve.

An infection control team at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, Michigan, used images of bacterial growth to provoke feelings of disgust and motivate hospital staff to comply with hand hygiene guidelines, and according to data they presented at the 43rd Annual Conference of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, the tactic worked. 

The team developed a book of images containing bacterial cultures of differing types and levels of contamination, as measured by Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) meter readings. The researchers tested the images on hospital units that had low hand hygiene compliance rates, and over a two-month period, they visited those units 10 times, sampled workers' hands for bacteria, and then showed them pictures of cultures similar to the contamination on their hands. Compliance increased by between 11 and 46 percentage points in units where the study was conducted.

“Hospital staff wanted to wash their hands after looking at the book and picturing similar contamination on their own skin,” Ashley Gregory, MSL (ASCP), an infection prevention specialist who co-led the project said in a prepared statement about the study. “Using this example, other institutions may be able to change behavior and improve their hand hygiene compliance rates by influencing staff to connect the images of microbial contamination with non-adherence to hand hygiene guidelines.”

The program also motivated healthcare personnel (HCP) to take ownership of the environmental cleaning of their workspace. By comparing the ATP readings taken from phones, mobile work stations, and computer mouse devices to the photos in the book of germ images, HCP were able to visualize the contamination on the surfaces surrounding them.

“Hand hygiene is one of the most important ways to prevent the spread of infection, and yet it can be one of the most difficult benchmarks to improve,” APIC 2016 President Susan Dolan, RN, MS, CIC, hospital epidemiologist, Children's Hospital Colorado said in the statement. “The visual nature of this approach proved successful for the team at Henry Ford Health System, and it may offer an effective strategy for other healthcare facilities that are looking for ways to change behavior and improve hand hygiene compliance.”

Reference

1. Gregory A. Presented at: Annual Conference of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology; June 11-13, 2016; Charlotte, N.C.

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