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Location matters for hospital hand sanitizers

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Placing alcohol-based hand sanitizers in the middle of a hospital lobby floor in front of the visitor entrance significantly increases their use compared with other locations, according to a US study.

Researchers found usage of the hand sanitizer was 5.28 times higher when the dispenser was in the middle of the entrance where there were “limited landmarks or barriers”, compared with other locations such as near the main information desk.

“Visitor hand hygiene is an opportunity to further improve patient safety”

Study authors

They also found that children and young adults visiting hospital were nearly 50% more likely to use alcohol-based hand sanitizer than older adults, and people in general were more likely to use them in the afternoon than the morning.

In addition, visitors in groups were almost 40% more likely to clean their hands with the product than those who entered a hospital alone.

The researchers conducted a three-week study at Greenville Memorial Hospital in South Carolina, in which they observed sanitizer use by more than 6,600 visitors.

The dispenser was placed in a different location each week – middle of the hospital entrance, in front of the information desk, and between the main revolving door and a side door to the lobby.

Visitors were observed during peak visiting hours – 10-11:30am and 4-5:30pm – on three different days each week.

“Visitors represent an additional vector by which healthcare-associated diseases can be transmitted to patients, and thus visitor hand hygiene is an opportunity to further improve patient safety,” noted the study authors in the American Journal of Infection Control.

“The study suggests many future research opportunities, including investigation into the effect of group dynamics and social pressure on visitor hand sanitizer utilization to identify strategies for improving visitor hand hygiene,” they said.

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