Infection Control Survey Question 2 Results; High Tech Solutions for Hand Hygiene

posted Sep 29, 2011, 2:54 PM by Todd Fox   [ updated Sep 24, 2016, 8:24 AM ]

The result from the 2nd question of the Infection Control Survey has been anticipated by many.  This anticipation is due to the proactive nature of most Infection Preventionists.  The industry seems to teach infection control professions to constantly seek new health technologies to improve their hospital, clinic, outpatient facility or other medical organization.  Most Infection Preventionists have had this automatic hand hygiene and environmental sanitation compliance technology on their radar for several years now and may just be waiting for funding.  (If you have not taken the Infection Control Survey or missed the results from question 1 please click the links).


The second question reveals the perception of your hygiene and infection control colleagues in regards to a technology that may become common in most medical organizations.  Gone are the days of hand hygiene campaigns focused on behavioral change?  Or will these sanitation tracking systems take a “behind the curtain” role and be a foundational support for future campaigns?  Here are the percentage breakdowns of the answer options:


2.       What are your thoughts about automatic hand washing tracking systems (tracks hand washing and sanitizing through a tag or RFID card system?  Check all that apply.

55.0%  Our organization doesn’t use such a system, but I believe they will increase compliance

12.5%  They are “big brother” like and make employees uneasy

7.5%  They are effective for all employees (regardless of number of years the employee has been in a health field)

7.5%  Our organization doesn’t use such a system, but I believe compliance will stay the same

5.0%  They work better with the younger health professional

5.0%  I prefer low tech hand washing training and campaigns

2.5%  Hand washing and sanitizing is taught in better ways than automatic tracking systems

2.5%  Our organization doesn’t use such a system, but I believe compliance will be reduced

2.5%  Other  Too Expensive for Small Hospitals

0.0%  They have increased hand hygiene compliance in my organization

0.0%  They have NOT increased hand hygiene compliance in my organization (nor decreased)

0.0%  They have decreased hand hygiene compliance in my organization

0.0%  They work better with the experienced health professional


Many of the above results confirm points that were made in an earlier post by OUTFOX Prevention "Low Tech vs. High Tech: Hand Hygiene’s Role in Infection Control (i.e. Glo Germ vs Automatic Monitoring Systems for Hand Washing)
Specifically, the following excerpts were similar to the survey results:

Using low tech in conjunction with high tech will help keep employees emotionally in touch with the effects of infections. “


“…low tech solutions should be used with high tech solutions to offset the focus on just obtaining numbers. “


“We recommend using low tech solutions until the ratio of newer employees reaches a significant level. “


“…it may take time for the systems to be fully embraced. “


“Health care professionals just starting their careers usually acclimate quicker to higher levels of technology.  Regardless of the drawbacks of automatic hand-hygiene systems, the rise in new health care professionals lately may aid in the proliferation of automatic systems.  However, the health care job pool is currently made up primarily of individuals that have spent most their careers in hospitals, clinics and other health oriented organizations.”


The overall positive score (by adding the responses that regard automatic hand hygiene tracking in a positive light) is 62.5%.  This shows, from a preventionist's standpoint, that many respondents have had an experience or at least a hope or belief in what these systems can accomplish.  This is especially surprising because 65% indicated that they don't currently use such a system.  The percentage is not representative of how many organizations have a similar system, but we know it is not higher than 35%.


Confidence or Hope?

From our gatherings, Infection Preventionists have shown confidence in a product that most have never used.  Not that this is immediately negative, but let's discuss some positive and negative implications of expressing confidence in a product that you have no experience with.



-Early acceptance will likely occur once it is purchased for the organization (because of high anticipation)

-Belief sometimes drives results (hand hygiene compliance in this situation)

-The technology is in line with innovation trends

-The technology logically makes sense without actually needing to use it first

-Increases buzz around hand hygiene (whether it works more effectively than others or not) and more buzz usually means increased compliance



-Overreliance on technology

-Under reliance on behavioral training

-Distraction from current situation and capabilities.  Employees may say "Our hygiene compliance will increase only once we get automatic tracking system" rather than finding current solutions.

-Overspend on a system that may inherently not work well in respective organizations.


It seems that the automatic sanitation monitoring systems are coming whether we want it or not.  However, the survey results highlighted a point that will be a real concern.  12.5% indicated that they consider the hygiene systems as "Big Brother" like (there is also an assumption that many did not indicate as such because they do not understand the term Big Brother and would have if they understood).  What can be done to minimize the effects of employees feeling overly scrutinized by a non-human tracking process?  We have come up with four steps to help prepare your organization


1.  Introduce- Success with new processes can be linked to the manner in which they are introduced.


2.  Explain- Take time to explain what this process will mean for the employee and organization.  Show them what they will see and what they will be responsible for.  In addition, show them what management will see and discuss goals.  Making the system as transparent as possible will eliminate many of the concerns of employees.  Things get bad when employees feel that management is secretive or judging them on unclear standards.


3.  Participation- Make sure that everyone has an active part in the process.  If there is a large push back initially from employees, get them to agree to a test period (i.e. 3 months, etc.).  Getting the employees to begin participation will lessen the worries of most.  A busy employee has less time to complain and usually is more focused on doing what is necessary to complete a job (including implementing new processes).


4.  Incentivize- Make sure that incentives are in line with what you are looking for in the automatic system (what is the goal of tracking sanitation, hygiene and infection control?).  If employees see rewards, praise or a good outcome from compliance then you will see more positive attitudes in regards to the system.  If management considers the employees' job or wage as enough motivation then beware.  Incentives don't have to be monetary or large, just positive and encouraging for the employee.


Thank you for reading this portion of our hygiene blog, the discussion of automatic tracking systems dealing with hand hygiene and other sanitation processes.  Stay tuned for the results that will be released for Question 3 of the Infection Control Survey.

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