Home E-Weekly August 19, 2014

Red Flashing Lights Improve Hand Hygiene Compliance

Published: August 18, 2014

Hospital lobbies are full of distractions — signs, colors, frequent alarms and public address announcements. Is it any wonder visitors and staff, who might be carrying coffee or walking through staring at their smartphones, don't notice alcohol gel dispensers?

The authors of a new study in the American Journal of Infection Control assessed the effectiveness of placing blinking red lights — red because the color conventionally alerts individuals to stop or slow down — on alcohol gel dispensers located in the lobby of a large tertiary care academic hospital.

The researchers observed about 15,000 opportunities for hand hygiene on weekday mornings during 3 study periods conducted in January and April 2013. Compliance improved from approximately 13% without use of the blinking lights to 23.5% during cold weather (when individuals wearing gloves were presumably less likely to comply) and 27.1% during warm weather when the lights were activated.

"Red flashing lights make the gel dispensers the most conspicuous object at the front entrance, able to catch an individual's attention at a critical time, when they're entering the hospital," write the researchers. Attaching the lights on top of the dispensers positions them as close as possible to the necessary action, they add.

According to the study, a light's ideal flash rate is 2 to 5Hz, making them noticeable without reaching a seizure-inducing blinking rate. The brightness of the lights used in the study was 23 lumens — attention-grabbing, but not blinding. The rechargeable lights ($9.75) were attached with an organosiloxane polymer ($1.50) for a total system cost of $40.50.

The researchers say the inexpensive lights don't require education or training, can be installed in half a day, are easily replaced and effective immediately, making them a potentially useful way to increase short-term hand hygiene compliance.

Daniel Cook

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