Keeping an Eye on Hospital Hand Washing

May 31, 2013, 11:27 AM


To what lengths will hospitals go to make sure their employees are washing their hands? The answer for North Shore University Hospital on Long Island, N.Y., is thousands of miles to India where far-flung employees check their monitors, trained on the hospital floors, to find workers who skip the sinks on their way to the hospital’s intensive care units. According to a recent article in the New York Times, that is just one of many ways hospitals are working to increase hand washing and stop the spread of germs that can kill hospitalized patients. Other methods include free pizza and coffee incentives for frequent hand-washers and embedded chips on hospital employees that emit an alarm when a doctor bypasses a sink outside a patient room.  

A March report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) easily explains the increasing emphasis on hospital hand washing. According to the report, a family of bacteria called Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae, which includes e.coli, have become increasingly resistant to last-resort antibiotics during the past decade, and more hospitalized patients are developing incurable infections. CDC researchers found that during the first half of 2012, 4 percent of hospitals and 18 percent of long-term care facilities treated a patient with this type of infection. 

Some hospitals have incentive ideas that employers and families can adopt including buttons that say, “Ask me if I’ve washed my hands?”

>>Read the article.

>>Bonus Links:

  • Read about a new CDC study that found that using germ-killing soap and ointment on all ICU patients can reduce blood stream infections by up to 44 percent.
  • Read tips from the CDC on how to wash hands thoroughly including a song to hum timed precisely to the time it takes to wash hands thoroughly.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.