Real-Time Interventions: The Best Way to Sustain Hand Hygiene Improvement

By Madison Pittman

A few months ago, we shared some startling data. Despite the fact that hand hygiene is being talked about more than ever, healthcare providers are not cleaning their hands more during COVID-19, in fact, many are cleaning their hands less.

In case you missed that blog post, here’s a short recap:

Hospitals in the first phase of the Clean Hands – Safe Hands system process do not have the Natural Language Voice Reminder™ turned on which gently reminds providers to sanitize if they forget. During this initial phase, data is collected to show hospitals their baseline of hand hygiene performance, and the voice is kept off.

The hand hygiene data from all health systems with the voice reminder turned off experienced a decrease or no change in hand hygiene performance during the start of the COVID-19 impact. On the flip side, all health systems in more advanced phases of the Clean Hands – Safe Hands process, with the voice reminder turned on, experienced an increase in hand hygiene during the first weeks of COVID-19.

The graph below represents hand hygiene performance for health systems during the first weeks of COVID-19. The Voices Off Combined line (green) represents hospitals in early phases of the process with the voice turned off. The Voices On Combined line (blue) represents hospitals in later phases with the voice turned on. The data was normalized to show the relative decrease in hand hygiene and is aggregated, not averaged.

This data was collected around the first weeks of initial COVID impact. Many of the hospitals with the voice turned off progressed into later phases of the Clean Hands – Safe Hands pathway and turned the voices on as COVID continued to impact the facility. The team at Clean Hands – Safe Hands decided to look at the data for the hospitals who turned the voice on several months into COVID. This updated data shows hand hygiene performance during the six months after initial COVID impact. The data for four different hospitals is depicted below. The blue arrow represents the date the voice was turned on. While each hospital had experienced a dip in hand hygiene performance when the voice was off, every single hospital had a drastic improvement in hand hygiene when the voice reminder was turned on.

So what factors contributed to hospitals having a decline in hand hygiene during COVID?

  • Misconceptions around PPE
    • Gloves are not a substitute for hand hygiene
    • Healthcare professionals that think they are protected may leave their gloves on when leaving one patient’s room and entering another
  • Gaps in perception versus reality
    • Data proves that healthcare professionals practice hand hygiene every time they think about it, but the reality is they are not aware of the times they forget
  • Disruptions to usual workflow
    • Research shows that the busier a clinician is, the more difficult it is to maintain hand hygiene performance

Fortunately, as evidenced by the updated data, there is a very clear solution to improve hand hygiene performance: real-time interventions. The Clean Hands – Safe Hands system provides a gentle, Natural Language Voice Reminder™ which reminds a provider to sanitize in real-time, only if they forget. The fact is, healthcare professionals are deeply caring, hardworking individuals who simply can’t remember to perform hand hygiene every time they should. The voice reminder is like a friendly coworker, reminding the provider to sanitize in case they forget. Real-time interventions are the key to sustained hand hygiene improvement all the time, especially in serious situations like COVID-19.

To learn more about real-time interventions, contact Clean Hands – Safe Hands.

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