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Hospitals trying to improve hand washing rates to reduce infections

Currently, hospital-acquired infections are the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S. One preventable cause of these infections is the unwashed hands of medical personnel.

A recent article in The New York Times looked into the issue and how some hospitals are raising compliance rates by installing cameras near hand washing stations that react when medical personnel either wash or fail to wash their hands after entering or leaving a room.

When just cameras were installed, only 6.5 percent of the doctors and nurses washed their hands within 10 seconds of entering or leaving the room, even though they knew about the camera.

The compliance rate increased dramatically when the employees knew the cameras were watching them because lights flashed the words, "Great shift!" if things were going well or, "Keep it up!" if the compliance rates were lacking. The light boards would also display the compliance rates.

Once the light boards were installed, 81.6 percent of medical personnel washed their hands within 10 seconds of entering or leaving a room. Overall, the average rate of compliance for the next year and a half was 87.9 percent.

Proactive efforts like these can help reduce unnecessary and preventable hospital-acquired infections.

Source: The New York Times, "Prevention: Cameras Can Help Ensure Hand Washing," Nicholas Bakalar, Feb. 6, 2012

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