Do hospital visitors wash their hands? Assessing the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer in a hospital lobby

Am J Infect Control. 2012 May;40(4):340-3. doi: 10.1016/j.ajic.2011.05.006. Epub 2011 Aug 23.


Background: Reports regarding hand hygiene compliance (HHC) among hospital visitors are limited. Although there is an implicit assumption that the availability of alcohol-based hand sanitizer (AHS) promotes visitor HHC, the degree of AHS use by visitors remains unclear. To assess AHS use, we observed visitor HHC and how it is affected by visual cues in a private university hospital.

Methods: Using an observational controlled study, we tested 3 interventions: a desk sign mandating all visitors to use AHS, a free-standing AHS dispenser directly in front of a security desk, and a combination of a freestanding AHS dispenser and a sign.

Results: HHC was 0.52% at baseline and did not improve significantly when the desk sign was provided as a cue 0.67% (P = .753). However, HHC did improve significantly with use of the freestanding AHS dispenser (9.33%) and the sign and dispenser combination (11.67%) (P < .001 for all comparisons of dispenser alone and sign and dispenser with baseline and sign alone). The degree of improvement with the sign and dispenser combination over the dispenser was not statistically significant.

Conclusions: Hospital visitors represent an important factor in infection prevention. A coordinated effort is needed to increase visitor HHC, including an evaluation of the AHS placement, education of visitors on the importance of HHC, and evaluation of corresponding changes in hand hygiene behavior.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohols / administration & dosage
  • Cross Infection / prevention & control*
  • Disinfectants / administration & dosage
  • Hand Disinfection / methods*
  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • Infection Control / statistics & numerical data*
  • Visitors to Patients / statistics & numerical data*


  • Alcohols
  • Disinfectants