Unconventional methods improve hand hygiene in one hospital study

There are many high-tech tools on the market designed to improve hand hygiene compliance, but one hospital was able to achieve improved compliance using less conventional methods — exposing workers and visitors to a citrusy smell and imagery of a man's staring eyes.

Researchers conducted trials in a surgical intensive care unit at a teaching hospital in Miami to test whether certain cues — like images or smells — would alter behavior among healthcare workers and hospital visitors. The concept is taken from insights from behavioral science.

In one trial, the researchers positioned a picture of a man's intense staring eyes above the alcohol hand gel dispenser outside a patient room. Hand hygiene compliance increased 33.3 percent after the addition of the picture. The researchers also conducted the study using a picture of a set of female eyes, but that picture was associated with a 5 percent decrease in hand hygiene compliance, when compared to the control group.

In another trial, the research team exposed individuals in the surgical ICU to a citrus smell. Compared to the control group — which had a compliance rate of roughly 15 percent — nearly half (46.9 percent) of those exposed to the citrus smell used the alcohol hand gel dispenser.

"Based on these preliminary findings, we believe that further research in this area should be performed in order to better determine whether priming interventions could be a powerful tool in encouraging hand-washing to improve infection rates," concluded researcher Ivo Vlaev, of the Warwick Business School in the U.K.










 Image courtesy of Craig Sunter, Flickr


More articles on hand hygiene:
Trading in pens and paper for a 21st century hand hygiene monitoring system
Hand hygiene in 2015: 7 findings
Which advertising strategy prompts hand hygiene compliance most?

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