Improving Hand Hygiene Practices: A Picture is Worth a Thousand Bacteria

Showing health care workers magnified images of bacteria may increased adherence to hand hygiene practices, a new study has found.

Specialists from Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit visited four units with low hand hygiene compliance rates, 10 times during July to September, 2015. On each visit, hands and various items they come in contact with, were swabbed with an adenosine triphosphate meter. In addition, 12 magnified images were shown of what the bacteria would look like under a microscope. Rates of compliance were measured at mid-point and after the final visit.

Compliance rates increased significantly in each of the four units: 22.9%, 36%, 142% and 37.6%, respectively.

“I think healthcare workers in general become numb to the fact that hospitals are an environment of germs,” said co-author Ashley Gregory, explaining the results. “We believe our study demonstrates that pictures go a long way to breaking that detachment, and gives hospitals a new tool for their hand hygiene toolkit.”

Bacteria dish of healthcare worker's keyboard. Image credit: Henry Ford Health System.

When launching their recent ‘Clean Hands Count' campaign last month, The Center for Disease Control and Prevention revealed how studies show that healthcare professionals clean their hands less than half of the time they should. They say health workers may need to wash their hands up to 100 times per 12-hour shift.

Bacteria dish of healthcare worker's hand. Image credit: Henry Ford Health System.

The full findings from the Henry Ford study will be presented at the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology's conference this weekend in Charlotte, NC.

For more information visit HenryFord.com.

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