DebMed Survey Reveals Hospitals Still Using Unreliable Method To Measure Hand Hygiene Compliance

Inaccurate data may put patients at risk, but new advances in technology can help

Nov 29, 2012, 13:12 ET from DebMed

CHARLOTTE, N.C., Nov. 29, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- DebMed®, creator of the world's first electronic hand hygiene compliance monitoring system based on the World Health Organization's (WHO's) "Five Moments for Hand Hygiene," today released survey results that revealed that 96 percent of infection preventionist respondents are using an inaccurate method to measure how healthcare workers clean their hands, even though the majority are not satisfied with the reliability of the data.

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DebMed surveyed more than 140 participants about their current methods and attitudes around measuring healthcare worker hand hygiene behavior. The results showed that while 96 percent of respondents are using direct observation to measure hand hygiene compliance, 34 percent are "not satisfied at all" and 60 percent are "somewhat satisfied" with the accuracy of the data.

Direct observation involves someone watching and recording the hand hygiene behavior of healthcare workers. This process of observation is likely to change behavior because people behave differently when they know they are being watched. This is known as the Hawthorne effect, which artificially inflates hand hygiene rates as the clinicians clean their hands more frequently than they normally would because they know they are being observed. In fact, a study done in Germany and published in the American Journal of Infection Control in December 2009 showed a difference of almost three times (2.75x) as much.

Proper hand hygiene is the number one way to prevent healthcare-associated infections (HAIs), which result in 99,000 deaths annually in the U.S. alone, yet the WHO cites hand hygiene compliance rates at an overall average of only 38.7%. Reporting overinflated rates on hand hygiene compliance misleads hospitals into believing they have less of a problem with hand hygiene behavior than what is really occurring.

Recent advances in technology have increased the availability of automated, electronic monitoring systems to replace direct observation. While 93 percent of survey respondents are aware of electronic monitoring and 88 percent believe it is a more reliable option than direct observation, only 1 percent of those surveyed are using such a system.

In addition, 58 percent of participants are measuring healthcare worker's hand hygiene activity only when entering and exiting a patient's room, rather than the WHO-recommended "Five Moments for Hand Hygiene", a higher clinical standard that only 31 percent of respondents said they were measuring.

About DebMed®
DebMed is the healthcare program of the Deb Group. The DebMed program offers innovative hand hygiene products, electronic monitoring technology, and improvement tools to support hand hygiene compliance. The DebMed® GMS™ (Group Monitoring System) is the world's first group monitoring system to report hand hygiene compliance rates in real-time based on the World Health Organization's (WHO) "Five Moments for Hand Hygiene" and to date has recorded more than 16 million hand hygiene events. The electronic monitoring system is being utilized in a four year, multi-site research project being conducted by the Columbia University School of Nursing and funded by a $1.2 million grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). It is the first study aimed at reducing healthcare-associated infections in pediatric long-term care facilities by improving staff compliance with hand hygiene guidelines. For more information on the study or DebMed, visit

About Deb Group
Possessing international scale and strong local market presence, Deb Group provides innovative skin care programs for all types of workplace and public environments, spanning industrial, commercial, healthcare and food sectors. Headquartered in the United Kingdom with US operations based in Charlotte, NC, Deb Group is comprised of 21 companies operating in 16 countries. For more information, visit

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