Wash Your Hands? The Video is Watching

November 30, 2011
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Those L.E.D. displays are very demanding — health care workers must clean their hands within 10 seconds of entering and exiting a patient’s room, or it doesn’t count.   Three years ago, using the same criteria, the medical I.C.U.’s hand hygiene rate was appalling — it averaged 6.5 percent.   But a video monitoring system that provides instant feedback on success has raised rates of hand-washing or use of alcohol rubs to over 80 percent, and kept them there.

Those L.E.D. displays are very demanding — health care workers must clean their hands within 10 seconds of entering and exiting a patient’s room, or it doesn’t count.   Three years ago, using the same criteria, the medical I.C.U.’s hand hygiene rate was appalling — it averaged 6.5 percent.   But a video monitoring system that provides instant feedback on success has raised rates of hand-washing or use of alcohol rubs to over 80 percent, and kept them there.

Hospitals do impossible things like heart surgery on a fetus, but they are apparently stymied by the task of getting health care workers to wash their hands. Most hospitals report compliance of around 40 percent — and that’s using a far more lax measure than North Shore uses.   I.C.U.’s, where health care workers are the most harried, usually have the lowest rates — between 30 and 40 percent.  But these are the places where patients are the sickest and most endangered by infection.

New York Times article here.