Patient oversight can boost hand hygiene compliance: 4 study findings

Supplying patients with handheld signs to remind physicians to wash their hands can help improve hand hygiene compliance among providers, according to a study published in the American Journal of Infection Control.

Researchers from the West Virginia University School of Medicine introduced the signs — known as patient empowerment tools — at Morgantown, W.V.-based J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital in December 2015 as part of a multipronged approach to improve hand hygiene adherence. The hospital's hand hygiene compliance rates jumped from 48 percent in 2015 to about 75 percent in 2016 following the interventions.

Researchers conducted two separate surveys with patients and provider to assess acceptance of the hand held signs. Researchers polled 222 adult patients or parents of pediatric patients from December 2015 to June 2016. They also distributed a separate survey to 89 healthcare providers in November 2015, prior to the launch of the tool.

Here are four study findings.

  1. Sixty four percent of adult patients and 70 percent of parents said the tool made them feel more control of their care.

  1. Parents were almost 20 percent more likely to speak up about hand hygiene than adult patients. Seventy-seven percent of parents felt comfortable reminding physicians to wash their hands, compared to 64.8 percent of adult patients.

  1. Just over half of providers (54.9 percent) felt patients should play a role in reminding physicians to wash their hands. Most providers preferred patients make verbal requests regarding hand washing, versus using the signs to remind them.

  1. Of the providers who said patients should not be involved in hand hygiene efforts, 37 percent said it was not a patient's responsibility, 16 percent felt it would embarrass the clinician and 13 percent felt it would negatively affect the patient-physician relationship.

"Based on the results of this study, patient empowerment appears to be an effective strategy to facilitate healthcare workers' adherence to hand hygiene, but acceptance of the [patient engagement tool] by providers remains a challenge," said lead author Allison Lastinger, MD, a fellow at WVU School of Medicine. "Barriers to hand hygiene adherence among healthcare providers should be identified and addressed."

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