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Home >  E-Weekly >  April 8, 2014

Patients' Eyes Can Keep Hands Clean

Published: April 7, 2014

If you're looking for an effective yet inexpensive way to increase hand hygiene compliance among your employees, consider enlisting your patients as observers, say Canadian researchers.

According to their study, published in the April 1 issue of the American Journal of Infection Control, asking patients to watch and report on their providers' hand-washing practices boosted compliance rates to 97%.

"The patient-as-observer approach is a practical, accurate and cost-saving alternative to the time- and resource-intensive direct observations by a paid hospital employee," notes Michael Gardam, MD, MSc, FRCPC, director of infection prevention and control at Women's College Hospital in Toronto and the study's senior author.

For the study, the researchers distributed survey cards to patients arriving at the hospital's outpatient clinic between August 2012 and June 2013, asking them to anonymously record whether their providers washed or sanitized their hands before making contact. Providers were made aware that patients would be observing their practices, and trained nurses were tasked with monitoring their behaviors as well to validate the patients' reports.

More than 75% of the survey cards were returned upon discharge, and the patients' and nurses' findings were in agreement 87% of the time. After the project's conclusion, a survey of the providers found that 58% had changed their practices during its course and 88% felt more motivated to practice proper hand hygiene. Patient hand hygiene monitoring is now being implemented throughout the hospital.

David Bernard

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