DebMed®, creator of the world's first electronic hand hygiene compliance monitoring system based on the World Health Organization (WHO)'s "Five Moments for Hand Hygiene," today released survey results that revealed that 96 percent of infection preventionist respondents are using an inaccurate method to measure how healthcare workers clean their hands, even though the majority are not satisfied with the reliability of the data.
DebMed surveyed more than 140 participants about their current methods and attitudes around measuring healthcare worker hand hygiene behavior. The results showed that while 96 percent of respondents are using direct observation to measure hand hygiene compliance, 34 percent are "not satisfied at all" and 60 percent are "somewhat satisfied" with the accuracy of the data.
Direct observation involves someone watching and recording the hand hygiene behavior of healthcare workers. This process of observation is likely to change behavior because people behave differently when they know they are being watched. This is known as the Hawthorne Effect, which artificially inflates hand hygiene rates as the clinicians clean their hands more frequently than they normally would because they know they are being observed. In fact, a study conducted in Germany and published in the American Journal of Infection Control in December 2009 showed a difference of almost three times (2.75 times) as much.
Proper hand hygiene is the No. 1 way to prevent healthcare-associated infections (HAIs), which result in 99,000 deaths annually in the U.S. alone, yet the WHO cites hand hygiene compliance rates at an overall average of only 38.7 percent. Reporting overinflated rates on hand hygiene compliance misleads hospitals into believing they have less of a problem with hand hygiene behavior than what is really occurring.
Recent advances in technology have increased the availability of automated, electronic monitoring systems to replace direct observation. While 93 percent of survey respondents are aware of electronic monitoring and 88 percent believe it is a more reliable option than direct observation, only 1 percent of those surveyed are using such a system.
In addition, 58 percent of participants are measuring healthcare workers' hand hygiene activity only when entering and exiting a patient's room, rather than the WHO-recommended "Five Moments for Hand Hygiene," a higher clinical standard that only 31 percent of respondents said they were measuring.