Icky Hospital Problem: Getting Staff to Wash Hands
Many are trying high-tech monitoring, or even prizes as incentives
By Evann Gastaldo, Newser Staff
Posted May 29, 2013 2:04 PM CDT
You'd be grossed out by how often this does not happen.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – And the award for Heebie-Jeebiest Story of the Day goes to this gem from the New York Times, headlined: "Hospitals Struggle to Get Workers to Wash Their Hands." Turns out that, left to their own devices, hospital workers don't wash their hands all that often while interacting with patients. As little as 30% of the time, studies have shown. So, faced with the rise of drug-resistant superbugs; billions of dollars in costs (not to mention tens of thousands of deaths) arising from hospital-acquired infections; and new federal rules that will cost them Medicare money when patients contract preventable infections, hospitals are trying some new approaches.

  • On Long Island, motion sensors go off when anyone enters an intensive care room, and a video camera transmits images—to India—so monitors can make sure the doctors and nurses in the room wash their hands.
  • Some hospitals use RFID chips, high-tech electronic badges, or undercover observers to track hand-washing. At one hospital, staff members wear buttons encouraging patients' families to "Ask me if I've washed my hands."
  • Still others are going the positive reinforcement route, utilizing "hand-washing coaches" or offering prizes from free pizza and coffee coupons to cash bonuses.
"This is not a quick fix; this is a war," says one doctor at the Long Island hospital. Why is it so difficult? Studies have found explanations that vary from complaints about dry skin to plain old tedium or even a resistance to authority, and some theorize nurses and doctors just have too much pressure and too many other things to remember, particularly in emergency situations.

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Showing 3 of 25 comments
$3586407
May 30, 2013 10:38 AM CDT
A guy from my company move to this place. It looks like a growing market. http://www.biovigilsystems.com/products/
apocalypso
May 30, 2013 2:34 AM CDT
This article is no joke. You have to learn to heal yourself, hospitals and doctors' offices are nothing but deathtraps of incompetence and filth. Believe it. I wash my hands at least 20 times a day when interacting with patients to protect them as well as myself, but my colleagues and '"superiors"... not so much. Most of them even get super pissed-off if a patient asks them to wash their hands before an exam. Putting gloves on doesn't help much if they're pulled on with dirty hands, germs transfer and it defeats the entire purpose, but try telling Mr. M.D. that, and all you'll get is a dirty look and deliberately substandard care for your trouble. Disgusting.
HMD-SMD-ITY
May 29, 2013 11:19 PM CDT
If you want to get sick, then go to a hospital. You see those Steris machines all over the place. Some viruses have a lipid coating and the alcohol cannot penetrate it. There are some sanitizers that can break the lipid coating but you have to specifically order them for that purpose. Soap is one way to break the coating but I've heard that using the antibacterial soap is harmful to natural bacteria and only creates super bugs. Gloves are the next best layer of protection. Then you have UV light that can treat a whole room.