Medicolegal Issues

Hand Hygiene Makes Headlines


Recent efforts to raise awareness about proper hand hygiene in health facilities in order to prevent disease transmission, range from the ScrubUp! campaign in Ohio to the World Health Organization’s global Clean Care is Safer Care campaign (, which advocates for improving hand hygiene practices of health care workers around the world.

Twenty hospitals in Central Ohio staged ScrubUp! rallies on Dec. 5, 2011, during National Handwashing Awareness Week, not only to raise awareness of the hospitals’ commitment to hand hygiene, but also to encourage hospital visitors to wash their hands. The Ohio Hospital Association estimates that 50,000 people were exposed to these messages via a full-page ad in the Columbus Dispatch, overhead announcements and distribution tables in each hospital, handing out hand sanitizers to visitors, and engaging staff with humor, food, and prizes.

A recent study conducted at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y., found that hand hygiene compliance rates improve when remote video auditing platforms provide professionals with continuous feedback.1 During 16 weeks of real-time feedback on compliance with strict hand hygiene (i.e. within 10 seconds of entering/leaving patients’ rooms) via LED screens mounted on the walls of a MICU, compliance jumped to more than 80%.

A British study of 7,000 contacts in ICUs and geriatric units found that wearing latex gloves may discourage guideline-recommended hand washing, even though such failures to wash may contribute to spreading disease.2 Compliance was 47.7% without gloves, and 41% with gloves.

One of the study’s authors calls for further study of the behavioral reasons why healthcare workers are less likely to wash their hands when gloved, but urges that hand hygiene associated with gloving be part of educational campaigns.

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