The ABCs of Hand Hygiene: A is for Awareness

By Chris Hermann

For the most part, healthcare providers understand the importance of hand hygiene. Still, they tend to clean their hands only about 40% of the times they should[1]. Why is this? In our experience, it comes down to the “ABCs”:

  • Awareness
  • Busyness
  • Craziness

We’ll cover Awareness today.

So, what does awareness have to do with hand hygiene? While, again, clinicians are largely aware that cleaning their hands is the best way to prevent healthcare-associated infections (HAIs)[2], this doesn’t mean that they’re aware of every single hand hygiene opportunity they experience throughout the day.

We see this over and over when we compare clinicians’ assumptions about their own hand hygiene versus reality. (We covered this in more detail in an earlier blog post.)

Hand Hygiene Perception vs Reality

What this graph shows is that 80% of clinicians surveyed think that they clean their hands 80%-100% of the times they’re supposed to. In reality, 72% of these same clinicians clean their hands less than 50% of the time they’re supposed to.

Why is this? As we said before,

“Healthcare workers genuinely believe they’re cleaning their hands every time they’re supposed to. This is because every time they think about performing hand hygiene, they do it. But when they don’t think about performing hand hygiene, obviously they don’t notice that they’ve forgotten to clean their hands. Said another way…in every instance, providers do not make an intentional decision to fail to clean their hands.”

Simply making providers aware that there’s a hand hygiene opportunity that they’ve missed can make a world of difference. Here’s what happens when our Real-Time Voice Reminder™ is turned on, which gives clinicians a gentle, human voice reminder to clean their hands when they forget.

Effect of Voice Reminder on Hand Hygiene

On average, hand hygiene rates more than double once the voice is turned on. Awareness of each and every hand hygiene opportunity helps solve the hand hygiene conundrum.

We’ll cover Busyness and Crazyness over the next few weeks.

If you’d like to learn more about how our electronic hand hygiene reminder system provides this kind of data and decreases HAIs by over 60%, download our free white paper now. Or contact us so we can discuss your hospital’s specific needs.

This post is part of a series on The ABCs of Hand Hygiene.


[1] Erasmus V, Daha TJ, Brug H, Richardus JH, Behrendt MD, Vos MC, et. al. Systematic review of studies on compliance with hand hygiene guidelines in hospital care. Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol 2010;31:283-94.

[2] Allegranzi B, Pittet D. Role of hand hygiene in healthcare-associated infection prevention. J Hosp Infect 2009;73:305-15.

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