Armed with simple paddle signs, patients and parents can feel empowered to remind clinicians to perform hand hygiene and successfully improve compliance rates, according to US researchers.
Patients at a US hospital were given light-hearted, cartoon-styled paddles to use to remind clinicians to clean their hands.
“Barriers to hand hygiene adherence among healthcare providers should be identified and addressed”
The researchers, from West Virginia University, then used an anonymous, self-administered questionnaire to examine attitudes toward their new “patient empowerment tool”.
Those surveyed included 108 adult patients, 114 parents of child patients, and doctors at the J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital, a 645-bed tertiary care teaching hospital.
They found 64% of adult patients and 70% of parents thought the tool made them feel more in control of their care.
The results also suggested that patients were slightly more comfortable using the tool to remind nurses than doctors.
“Patient involvement is increasingly recognised as an important component of hand hygiene improvement”
For example, 81.4% of parents and 71.2% of adult patient felt comfortable using the PET to remind nurses to perform hand hygiene.
This was compared with 77% of parents and 64.8% of adult patients for physicians.
Researchers noted, however, that parents were nearly 20% more likely than adult patients to speak up if a physician did not perform hand hygiene.
Meanwhile, hand hygiene rates in the hospital increased from 48% in 2015 to around 75% in 2016, as a result of a multi-pronged initiative to increase handwashing rates that included the new tool.
“Forty-eight percent is pretty standard, so 75% is phenomenal,” said lead study author Dr Allison Lastinger.
However, among the 89 healthcare professionals, only 54.9% felt that patients should be involved in reminding providers to perform hand hygiene.
Fun signs help patients to ‘improve nurse hand hygiene’
Source: West Virginia University
Overall, they indicated that they would prefer a patient to make the request verbally, rather than using the tool to remind them to perform hand hygiene.
Of the doctors who did not support patient involvement, 37% thought it was not the patient’s responsibility to remind them to perform hand hygiene, 16% found it embarrassing and 13% felt that it would have a negative impact on the patient-physician relationship.
While a number of studies have examined the role of patient involvement in promoting hand hygiene, few have examined the role of family members in reminding clinicians about it.
However, the authors of the new study noted that if patient involvement was to be successful, healthcare workers must accept it as helpful and not as a threat.
Dr Lastinger said: “Based on the results of this study, patient empowerment appears to be an effective strategy to facilitate healthcare workers’ adherence to hand hygiene, but acceptance of the patient empowerment tool by providers remains a challenge.
“Barriers to hand hygiene adherence among healthcare providers should be identified and addressed,” she noted.
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The new study findings were published in the American Journal of Infection Control, the official journal of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology.
Linda Greene, nurse and president of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, said: “Patient involvement is increasingly recognised as an important component of hand hygiene improvement strategies.
“Organisations must realise that patients and families are an important part of the healthcare team, and their involvement in hand hygiene campaigns should be encouraged,” she said.