Michael Jordan Lends a Hand to Lower Infection Rates

Michael Jordans big hands, which led the North Carolina Tar Heels and Chicago Bulls to basketball championships, now are helping Novant Health remind employees that properly washed hands prevent the spread of infection.

On posters, computer screens and banners throughout the not-for-profit healthcare systems 13 hospitals and more than 350 physician practices in the Carolinas and Virginia, the basketball legends image is sustaining the momentum of Novants  award-winning Washing Hands Saves Lives campaign.

His hands have built quite a reputation. So have ours, proclaims one poster featuring Jordan with an oversized outstretched hand. The best defense is clean hands, reads another poster showing Jordan wearing Carolina-blue scrubs with his Jumpman logo. Handwashing is the #1 way to prevent the spread of infection, the poster adds.

The serious hand hygiene message is part of a broader, otherwise light-hearted advertising campaign starring Jordan flashing his sense of humor as both a wanna-be surgeon and a towering patient to communicate Novants commitment to remarkable patient care. In regional ads appearing on prime-time TV series and during the summer Olympics, Jordan is shown peering down in the operating room amid a team of surgeons and amusing his doctor with a heartbeat resembling a dribbling basketball.

The opportunity to have Michael communicate with our employees and call attention to our hand-hygiene campaign was a compelling part of our partnership, says Kati Everett, vice president of marketing and communication for North Carolina-based Novant Health.

Novants launched its no-holds-barred, zero-tolerance hand hygiene campaign in 2005 after three premature infants in a Novant hospital neonatal unit died following a MSRA outbreak caused by hospital staff not properly washing their hands. The campaign included hand hygiene monitors roaming hospital halls to report doctors, nurses and other staff who didnt wash up properly, as well as tough posters showing a child in a hospital bed and warning, You Could Kill Him With Your Bare Hands. 

Despite early discomfort among some hospital staff and the legal risks of such openness, Novant pressed on. Within three years, Novant increased its handwashing compliance rate from 49 to 98 percent, double the historical average for hospital workers nationwide. In four years, the overall rate of hospital-acquired infections was cut by almost 75 percent, to 0.16 HAIs per 1,000 patient days, compared to 0.6 about the time of the MRSA outbreak.

In 2008, Novant and its staff were named a national winner of the Ernest A. Codman Award by the Joint Commission for its hand hygiene campaign.  After receiving inquiries from hospitals around the world, Novant decided to share its marketing materials and details of its preventive program. Since then, more than 4,600 hospitals, clinics and healthcare systems from as far away as Hong Kong, Brazil, New Zealand and the Congo (where the campaign was translated into French and Tshuluba) have downloaded the materials from a dedicated website, www.WashingHandsSavesLives.org.

Moreover, the hand hygiene campaign has inspired a broader mission to build an overall culture of safety and quality care at Novant, says Dr. Jim Lederer, Novants vice president of clinical improvement. We have expanded the conversation to make sure we first do no harm and then ensure all of our patients get the care they expect and deserve, says Lederer. Michael Jordans involvement reminds Novant staff where our quest started and the importance of continuing to be vigilant in our hand hygiene, added Everett. Like Michael, we never will stop trying to improve our game of providing remarkable care to our patients.

For more information, visit www.novanthealth.org