Background: Hand hygiene (HH) has long been a focus in the prevention of healthcare-associated infections. The limitations of direct observation, including small sample size (often 20–100 observations per month) and the Hawthorne effect, have cast doubt on the accuracy of reported compliance rates. As a result, hospitals are exploring the use of automated HH monitoring systems (AHHMS) to overcome the limitations of direct observation and to provide a more robust and realistic estimation of HH behaviors. Methods: Data analyzed in this study were captured utilizing a group-based AHHMS installed in a number of North American hospitals. Emergency departments, overflow units, and units with <1 year of data were excluded from the study. The final analysis included data from 58 inpatient units in 10 hospitals. Alcohol-based hand rub and soap dispenses HH events (HHEs) and room entries and exits (HH opportunities (HHOs) were used to calculate unit-level compliance rates. Statistical analysis was performed on the annual number of dispenses and opportunities using a mixed effects Poisson regression with random effects for facility, unit, and year, and fixed effects for unit type. Interactions were not included in the model based on interaction plots and significance tests. Poisson assumptions were verified with Pearson residual plots. Results: Over the study period, 222.7 million HHOs and 99 million HHEs were captured in the data set. There were an average of 18.7 beds per unit. The average number of HHOs per unit per day was 3,528, and the average number of HHEs per unit per day was 1,572. The overall median compliance rate was 35.2 (95% CI, 31.5%–39.3%). Unit-to-unit comparisons revealed some significant differences: compliance rates for medical-surgical units were 12.6% higher than for intensive care units (P < .0001). Conclusions: This is the largest HH data set ever reported. The results illustrate the magnitude of HHOs captured (3,528 per unit per day) by an AHHMS compared to that possible through direct observation. It has been previously suggested that direct observation samples between 0.5% to 1.7% of all HHOs. In healthcare, it is unprecedented for a patient safety activity that occurs as frequently as HH to not be accurately monitored and reported, especially with HH compliance as low as it is in this multiyear, multicenter study. Furthermore, hospitals relying on direct observation alone are likely insufficiently allocating and deploying valuable resources for improvement efforts based on the scant information obtained. AHHMSs have the potential to introduce a new era in HH improvement.
Funding: GOJO Industries, Inc., provided support for this study.
Disclosures: Lori D. Moore and James W. Arbogast report salary from GOJO.