How well do clinicians wash their hands when they're not being watched? 4 study facts

Research published in the American Journal of Infection Control examined how the Hawthorne effect, or a change in behavior due to being observed, affects hand hygiene compliance rates.

Researchers at an Australian teaching hospital tried automated surveillance as well as 20-minute mandatory human audits in a surgical and medical ward. The automated surveillance rates were subtracted from the human audit rates to provide the difference in percentage points.

Here are the key study findings:

1. When people were audited by humans, the percentage points for hand hygiene were 55 points higher than the automated surveillance rates in 2014 and 64 points higher in 2015.

2. In the surgical ward, human audits increased handwashing rates by an average of 32 percentage points in 2014 and 31 points in 2015.

3. Automated audits did collect more than 500 times more data than the human audits did, however.

4. "Mandatory compliance necessitates accuracy that only automated surveillance can achieve, whereas daily hand hygiene ambassadors or reminder technology could harness clinicians' ability to hyper respond to produce habitual compliance," researchers concluded.

Click here to read the full study.

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