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Hygiene Culture More Effective Than Handwashing Monitoring Systems

Study finds handwashing compliance drops off after a year without strong and consistent messaging

June 30, 2020

Hand hygiene among health care staff, including environmental services (EVS) workers, has always been crucial in preventing the spread of pathogens. In the era of COVID-19 handwashing has become even more vital, yet facilities still struggle with compliance. Many have installed electronic hand hygiene monitoring systems (EHHMS) that keep track of whether employees are washing their hands. These systems range from simple technology such as soap dispensers that record each time they are activated, to complex measures, such as badges or wristbands that sense if a worker has used proper hand hygiene when entering a patient area.

However, a new study published in the American Journal of Infection Control found these monitoring systems are inefficient in bringing about long-term handwashing compliance by themselves without being part of a strong handwashing culture.

Investigators with Widener University in Chester, Pennsylvania, conducted surveys and interviews at 56 acute care hospitals in New York state to evaluate the impact EHHMS had on Clostridium difficile infection rates. Only two of the 56 hospitals had installed the systems and only one of those hospitals shared their experience. The others cited the initial investment of money and staff resources as challenges in obtaining an EHHMS.

The hospital with the EHHMS had vastly improved handwashing data collection and was effective at improving hand hygiene compliance rates in the short term. But factors such as employee turnover quickly undid any progress the facility had made in handwashing compliance, with the data revealing a sharp decline after 12 months.

Investigators found that consistent and constant messaging about the importance of hand hygiene as well as staff empowerment were key drivers in long-term handwashing compliance. 

Consider following these five tips to help instill a strong handwashing culture in your facility.

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