Determining next steps in a hand hygiene improvement initiative by examining variation in hand hygiene compliance rates

Qual Manag Health Care. 2011 Apr-Jun;20(2):116-21. doi: 10.1097/QMH.0b013e318213ae83.


Background: Health care worker hand hygiene (HH) is a major quality and safety concern since poor hand hygiene has been linked with hospital associated infections. Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center has been involved in a 4-year initiative to improve hand hygiene. In 2006, HH compliance occurred 41% of the time and by 2009, it had improved to 91%. We wanted to understand some of the unexplained variability in HH to help determine where to target more specific strategies.

Methods: To help determine where some of the variability in HH compliance rates occurred, an analysis of means chart was used to determine whether role type of the health care worker and hospital areas had significantly different HH rates compared with the overall HH rate.

Results: The overall HH rate between March 2008 and December 2009 was 87%. There was a wide and significant variation between the 16 groups of 2 types of health care workers in 8 hospital areas from the lowest rate of 64% to a high of 96%.

Conclusion: Analysis of means revealed significant differences in HH rates relative to the type of worker and hospital areas. Although the method does not inform the organization of what type of intervention will work where and why, it allows high and low performing groups to be identified, so that organizations can learn from them to generate and test theories.

MeSH terms

  • Hand Disinfection*
  • Health Personnel*
  • Humans
  • Quality Improvement / organization & administration*