How do you get employees to pay more attention to workplace hygiene? A study looked into whether knowing they’d be watched would help.
And it did, after the employees were provided positive feedback.
A report in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases says hand-washing in a hospital’s intensive care unit (I.C.U.) skyrocketed when cameras with views of every hand-washing sink and hand sanitizer station were installed.
But it wasn’t just the cameras that increased compliance. North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, NY, also installed large, L.E.D. tote boards which flashed the current compliance rate as a percentage.
“91%, great shift!” the sign said recently above a nurses station in the I.C.U.
That’s a far cry from where the unit started. At first it averaged just 6.5%.
The initial compliance rate came as a shock, not only because it was so low, but also because a previous “secret shopper” program in which staff members were monitored by other employees measured the hand-washing rate at 60%.
Most hospitals report compliance of around 40%.
How does the system work? Cameras on the ceiling are focused on sinks and hand sanitizer dispensers just inside and outside of patient rooms. Anyone entering a room has 10 seconds to wash their hands. A monitor at each door tracks when someone enters or leaves. Employees of Arrowsight, the company that provides the system, monitor videotape and grade each employee’s room entrance as pass or fail.
The nurse manger gets an e-mail three hours into a shift. The compliance rate is then posted on the tote board, with positive feedback (“Great Shift!”) if it’s high enough (85% or over).
Hospitals have plenty of incentive to get this hygiene rate above the average 40%: About 1 in 20 hospital patients becomes ill with an infection, and there are 100,000 deaths each year from the infections in the U.S.
Arrowsight’s system wasn’t made, initially, for medical facilities. The company’s main customers are beef processing plants that monitor their workers’ hygiene practices.
Here’s a summary of how the program worked at North Shore:
- After the first 16 weeks of monitoring, the compliance rate was just 6.5%.
- Then researchers installed the tote boards which displayed the compliance rates and positive feedback for good shifts. The compliance rate jumped to 81.6% for the following 16 weeks.
- For the next 18 months, the average rate was 87.9%.
“People’s behavior does change when they’re being watched,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Bruce Farber. “This changed the culture.”
What do you think about this system? Can you imagine other applications for it in the world of health and safety? Let us know what you think in the comments below.