Can you use the “ick factor” to get healthcare workers to clean their hands more often? Yes, according to a new study presented at the annual conference of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC).
The infection control team at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit used images of bacterial growth to provoke feelings of disgust and motivate hospital staff members to comply with hand hygiene guidelines. The team developed a book of images containing bacterial cultures of different types and levels of contamination, as measured by adenosine triphosphate (ATP) meter readings.
They tested the images on units of the hospital that had low hand hygiene compliance rates, and over a period of two months, 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 had been conducted.
“Hospital staff wanted to wash their hands after looking at the book and picturing similar contamination on their own skin,” said Ashley Gregory, MSL, an infection prevention specialist who co-led the project. “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 staff members to take ownership of the environmental cleaning of their workspaces.
Susan Dolan, RN, MS, CIC, hospital epidemiologist, Children’s Hospital Colorado in Aurora and 2016 pesident of the APIC, said, “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. 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.”
Henry Ford’s infection control team was inspired by new research from St. John’s Research Institute in the United Kingdom. Researchers found that leveraging emotional motivators in Indian villages was more effective at promoting behavioral changes in hand hygiene than traditional messaging. (For more infomation on that study, go online to http://bit.ly/28KIUyV.)
According to the CDC, more than 700,000 healthcare-associated infections occur in U.S. acute care hospitals every year. It is well-documented that effective hand hygiene helps reduce the spread of infections. Despite this evidence, healthcare staff members practice hand hygiene less than half of the times they should, APIC said. (For more on hand hygiene from the CDC, go to http://1.usa.gov/28LfiGk.)