Survey Reveals Hospitals Are Focused on Reducing Infections, but Most Have Not Yet Adopted All Best Practices

As healthcare-associated infections remain problematic, DebMed survey results show concerns with data reliability and a lack of best practices

Oct 23, 2013, 09:07 ET from DebMed

CHARLOTTE, N.C., Oct. 23, 2013 /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, announced today the results of a survey of more than 400 healthcare professionals from across the United States that looked at the methods used to gather hand hygiene data, the reliability of that data and the commitment of healthcare facilities to improving hand hygiene. The survey reinforced the sentiment that healthcare professionals are committed to reducing healthcare-associated infections (HAIs), but also uncovered that they are not employing the methods that they believe reflect best practices.


Of the survey respondents, the majority of whom work in patient safety and quality or infection prevention roles, the significant majority – 90 percent – indicated that reducing patient infections through increased hand hygiene compliance is one of their facility's main focus areas. This is reassuring news as healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) remain an issue, with 1 in 20 patients contracting an infection, resulting in 1.7 million infections in the US annually, and causing 100,000 deaths.

The survey results show that 90 percent reported that they believe the World Health Organization (WHO) Five Moments for Hand Hygiene is a higher clinical standard that helps reduce the spread of infections better than cleaning just before and after patient care, a common standard in hospitals that studies show can miss up to 50 percent of hand hygiene opportunities, potentially putting patients at risk. However, the study also reports that only 30 percent of respondents have implemented the WHO Five Moments guidelines at their facility. The WHO  guidelines suggest that healthcare facilities, in an effort to reduce potential re-contamination and lower the number of HAIs, monitor five moments versus the traditional two commonly performed  only upon entry and exit  of patient rooms. The WHO Five Moments are before touching the patient, before aseptic procedures, after potential exposure to bodily fluids, after touching the patient and after touching the patients' surroundings.

"The survey confirmed a significant finding, which is that healthcare organizations across the U.S. are committed to lowering healthcare-associated infections," said Heather McLarney, vice president of marketing, DebMed. "What is needed now is for hospitals to take advantage of the latest technologies such as electronic hand hygiene monitoring systems that allow them to make a dramatic impact on the quality and safety of patient care."

Hospitals Not Taking Advantage of Hand Hygiene Technology

When it comes to data collection, the survey confirmed that adoption of electronic hand hygiene monitoring remains significantly behind in an industry already lagging when it comes to implementing technology solutions, with only 1.5 percent exclusively using electronic monitoring to gather data. The majority of hospitals are using direct observation, a manual and unreliable method, to monitor staff hand hygiene compliance. More than 75 percent of survey respondents, however, say they believe electronic hand hygiene compliance monitoring is a more accurate option than direct observation. Furthermore, an overwhelming number, 94 percent, believe that the Hawthorne effect, the phenomenon that subjects improve or modify their behavior when they know they are being observed, impacts the accuracy of  hand hygiene compliance rates reported through direct observation, resulting in hospitals' relying on unreliable data about the true rate of staff hand hygiene compliance. Studies have shown that the Hawthorne effect can artificially inflate hand hygiene compliance rates by as much as three times the actual rate.

The Question of Data Reliability

The comparison of hand hygiene compliance data that hospitals report using direct observation and the belief in true hand hygiene compliance rates revealed a contradiction. The majority of respondents, 61 percent, stated that their reported hand hygiene compliance rate using direct observation is 81 percent or greater. However, only 24 percent think their true hand hygiene compliance rate is greater than 81 percent. The danger of hospitals relying on such inaccurate data is that hospitals reporting high scores may not see hand hygiene as an issue at their facility and therefore may not put enough focus on improvement efforts.

The Future

While only 1.5 percent of respondents currently use an electronic hand hygiene monitoring system currently, 15 percent of those surveyed stated they plan to purchase an electronic monitoring system within the next year.

"It is encouraging to see hospitals starting to realize the advantages of moving from the  antiquated method of tracking hand hygiene compliance through direct observation to a more accurate, reliable and cost-effective electronic solution that will aid in improving hand hygiene compliance, reduce infections and save patient lives," McLarney said.

For more information on DebMed, please 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) 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 27 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. Deb is the first hand hygiene company in the world to provide actionable information along with its hand hygiene products to help drive best practices and improved outcomes for patients worldwide.

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