Hospital Hand Hygiene Reporting Discrepancies Continue

DebMed survey confirms steady improvements, though gap remains between hand hygiene beliefs and best practices that can increase patient safety and reduce infection

Oct 20, 2014, 09:12 ET from DebMed

CHARLOTTE, N.C., Oct. 20, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- DebMed® today announced the results of its third annual survey exploring methods used by hospitals to gather hand hygiene data, the reliability of that data and the commitment of healthcare facilities to improving hand hygiene. With responses from more than 400 infection preventionists, nurses and other healthcare leaders from U.S. hospitals, the survey reveals that despite the prevalence of available electronic technologies, manual methods are still predominately used  for tracking hand hygiene, leading to a vast inconsistency in hand hygiene compliance reporting, and ultimately leaving patients and clinical staff at risk for infection.

Key findings include:

  • 66 percent of respondents said their facility reports hand hygiene compliance to be 81 percent or greater, however,
  • 59 percent believe that their true hand hygiene compliance is actually less than 70 percent
  • 13 percent of those surveyed said they are "extremely satisfied" by the reliability of their facility's hand hygiene compliance data

In addition to the reporting discrepancies, the survey also found that there are significant inconsistencies between healthcare workers' beliefs, and the actual practices of hand hygiene compliance in their facilities.

  • 78 percent believe electronic hand hygiene compliance monitoring is a more accurate option than direct observation yet
  • 62 percent use manual direct observation by staff as the primary method used to measure and report hand hygiene compliance, with another 34 percent using manual direct observation by "secret shoppers"
  • With that said, 88 percent believe the Hawthorne effect, which states that people will change their behavior if they know they are being watched, impacts the accuracy of reported hand hygiene compliance rates

"The survey results are promising, yet accurately represent the challenges the industry faces in regard to clean hands and safer care for patients," said Heather McLarney, vice president of marketing, DebMed. "The numbers confirm what we hear firsthand from infection preventionists. They and other hospital staff want to implement the best hand hygiene practices for improved patient safety and health, but they face the reality of a host of other IT priorities competing for funding and focus like Meaningful Use, ICD-10 and EHR implementations."

Further, the survey findings cite the oft-used "in and out" method of only cleaning hands before and after patient interaction still reigns at most facilities, despite the fact that data shows additional hand cleaning – such as after touching a bed rail or medical chart – lowers infection rates.

  • 94 percent believe the WHO Five Moments and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guidelines (CDC) are a higher clinical standard that help reduce the spread of infections better than cleaning hands before and after patient care, a four percent increase from 2013, and
  • 63 percent teach staff to follow the WHO and CDC hand hygiene guidelines, but only 44 percent actually follow those standards, as the majority (54 percent) only clean hands when entering and exiting patient rooms

The right trend for patient safety

In looking back at the survey data collected the previous two years, there is a positive trend in not only the adoption of better technologies, but also the more imminent plans for purchase among those not yet using electronic monitoring. 

  • There is a two percent increase in facilities using electronic monitoring since 2012
  • 43 percent surveyed said they are currently considering implementing an electronic monitoring system, and 33 percent said their facility intends to purchase an electronic monitoring system within the next year

"While there are gaps in the measurement and reporting of hand hygiene compliance throughout hospitals, and facilities face stretched budgets and priorities, there is a clear increase in awareness of and commitment to better practices," said McLarney. "We will continue to push for improved hand hygiene compliance monitoring to dramatically increase patient safety and care at a time when we are still seeing outbreaks of infections that can be controlled in part by proper hand hygiene."

DebMed is the creator of the world's first electronic hand hygiene compliance monitoring system based on the WHO's Five Moments for Hand Hygiene and CDC hand hygiene compliance standards. For more information, visit

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), winner of the 2013 Frost & Sullivan Hand Hygiene Solutions New Product Innovation Award, is the world's first group monitoring system to report hand hygiene compliance rates based on the World Health Organization's (WHO) "Five Moments for Hand Hygiene" and to date has recorded more than 65 million hand hygiene events.  The 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). For more information, 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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