Gaming Can Facilitate Physician Hand Hygiene

Hand hygiene is a simple yet often omitted gesture to prevent pathogen transmission and healthcare-associated infections (HAIs). Training healthcare workers in hand hygiene is a key element in any multifaceted promotion strategy. Physicians are notoriously known for their underperformance in this field. Researchers from the University of Geneva Hospitals in Geneva, Switzerland and from the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Québec in Québec, Canada, sought to design a natural immersive environment to improve physicians hand hygiene performance.

The researchers inserted filmed sequences based on a plot of two physicians interacting with different patients during ward rounds into an interactive computer interface allowing the physician 'gamer' to decide where to use hand hygiene and disposable gloves. Hand hygiene being a very repetitive and often subconsciously executed task, virtual immersion might increase learning and improve long-term retention. Therefore, the researchers used both an emotionally engaging but also distracting plot to create role identity and simulate mental load typical for medical activity on the ward. Design features were refined through individual think-aloud protocols and target group testing. Immediate feedback messages and a result tracking mechanism were added.

Sax, et al. report that the design specifications could all be met. The resulting application proofed equally suitable for the training of hand hygiene observers. Computing the users results allows for benchmarking.

The researchers conclude that a serious game was successfully launched, immersing the gamer into the real-life challenge of hand hygiene, and that post-launch evaluation and clinical effectiveness must be performed in a next step. Their research was presented at the International Conference on Prevention & Infection Control (ICPIC) held in Geneva, Switzerland June 29-July 2, 2011.

Reference: HS Sax and Y Longtin. Immersive hand hygiene trainer for physicians a story-based serious game. Presentation at International Conference on Prevention & Infection Control (ICPIC). BMC Proceedings 2011, 5(Suppl 6):O31doi:10.1186/1753-6561-5-S6-O31