Hand hygiene is an integral aspect of infection control. The provision of alcohol-based hand rub (ABHR) gel at patients' bedsides has made effective hand hygiene (HH) more convenient for healthcare workers (HCWs) by overcoming two of the main barriers to HH- time and distance to sinks, by placing the bottles at the point of patient care. Researchers from the School of Public Health and Community Medicine at the University of New South Wales in Kensington, Australia, say that the ABHR bottles, being novel, ubiquitous and usually brightly colored, were originally very effective in cuing HCWs to observe HH. In the years since their introduction, these attributes have not translated into HH rates much above 60 percent. This suggests that AHR bottles may not have retained the cue to memory they originally held.
The researchers report that a series of direct observations and interviews with HCWs have suggested that the ABHR bottles, in the modern, busy patient environment are not as noticeable as they once were. Even if they are brightly colored bottles, HCWs have become inured to their presence. The researchers drew upon the practice of commercial manufacturers of similar products such as liquid soap and shampoo. They constantly modify and refresh the external attributes of their products to maintain their profile in the public eye. The researchers developed a study to test whether such an approach could have the same effect in a clinical setting. They developed a study which involves modifying the external attributes of the ABHR bottles to refresh them in the eyes of HCWs- and test whether they can improve HH rates as a result of these modifications. In addition tomeasuring HH compliance rates, it will have a qualitative aspesct to gauge the perceptions of HCWs taking part in the study.
Results: The study began at a Sydney teaching hospital in May 2011.The researchers say this study will determine whether this novel approach can assist and support HCWs in complying with HH protocols.
Reference: Harkin D and McLaws ML. Improving hand hygiene: thinking outside the bottle. Presentation at ICPIC. BMC Proceedings 2011, 5(Suppl 6):P116