Even with the Hawthorne Effect, Hand Hygiene Compliance Still Hideous

One way to deal with low hand hygiene compliance
A recurring theme has emerged in hand hygiene science - when you really look, compliance is very very low. A study 5 years ago reported that compliance was below 10% when hidden video monitoring was utilized. Our group has quantified the impact of the Hawthorne Effect, improved behavior when subjects know they're being observed, on hand hygiene compliance. In a multicenter study, we found that both measured exit and entry compliance increased the longer direct observers remained on the unit.

There is a report of a new APIC abstract in ABC-News that further quantifies that impact of the Hawthorne Effect and highlights the lack of investment in hand hygiene programs. Investigators from Santa Clara, California compared compliance measured by well-recognized Infection Prevention nurses, to observations collected by unknown high-school and college-aged volunteers who were trained to use the same surveillance methods. Here are their findings:

So, what do I make of these findings? First, even 57% is too low. Second, hospitals and healthcare systems continue to throw hand hygiene programs under the rug. We are much happier to report compliance rates of 100% collected by nurse managers on the floor (or compliance of 57% by recognized IPs) and ignore the problem than spend time and money detecting compliance rates of 22%, which would then require additional investments in proven hand hygiene interventions.

Any administrator, who thinks compliance in their hospital is higher than 70% or 90%, won't invest in hand hygiene programs. Since hospitals are happier to report compliance of 90% to the Joint Commission, we also won't invest in technological and socio-adaptive interventions that will finally improve the safety of our hospitals. We must work to create a safety culture where it is better to report hand hygiene compliance of 20% than falsely high compliance rates of 90%.

image source: montonara.com


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