Background: A review of the literature on handwashing has documented the absence of research on the education of the patient as an intervention model for changing staff behavior regarding handwashing compliance. The primary objective of this project was to conduct a prospective control study of the effect of patient handwashing education on staff compliance with handwashing.
Method: A prospective, controlled, 6-week intervention/control study was performed in 4 community hospitals in South Jersey. Each hospital served as its own control. Patients were educated within 24 hours of admission about the importance of asking their health care workers to wash their hands. Soap usage and handwashing was calculated by bed-days. Patient follow-up was conducted through telephone interviews 2 weeks after discharge.
Results: The patient handwashing education model increased soap usage by health care workers an average of 34% (P =.021); this increase was consistent across hospitals regardless of the initial soap usage rates. Of the patients interviewed, 81% read the materials provided, 57% asked health care workers whether they had washed their hands, and 81% of this 57% said they received positive responses.
Conclusions: For the first time, our findings document that education of patients regarding their role in monitoring handwashing compliance among health care workers can increase soap usage and handwashing and provide sustainable reinforcement of handwashing principles for health care workers.