Patient empowerment and hand hygiene, 1997-2012

J Hosp Infect. 2013 Jul;84(3):191-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jhin.2013.01.014. Epub 2013 Apr 19.


Background: Multi-modal hand hygiene programmes that include patient empowerment are promoted as a necessary component of hand hygiene compliance. However, the question still remains, do we have enough information to determine if, and under what conditions, patients will be able to play an immediate role in healthcare workers' hand hygiene behaviour?

Aim: To review the current literature on patient willingness to be empowered, barriers to empowerment, and hand hygiene programmes that include patient empowerment and hand hygiene improvement.

Methods: A Medline (Ovid) search of all English-language papers for 1997-2007 and 2008-2012 was conducted using the following keywords alone and in various combinations: 'patient participation', 'involvement', 'empowerment', 'education', 'decision-making', 'professional-patient relations', 'behavioural change', 'culture of safety', 'social marketing', 'consumer awareness', 'leadership', 'institutional climate', 'hand hygiene' and 'patient reminders'. The 1997-2007 review was conducted as part of the World Health Organization's Guidelines on Hand Hygiene in Health Care, and updated with the 2008-2012 review.

Findings: Several studies show that, in principle, patients are willing to be empowered. However, there is variation in the actual number of patients that practice empowerment for hand hygiene, ranging from 5% to 80%. The actual performance of patient empowerment can be increased when a patient is given explicit permission by a healthcare worker.

Conclusion: There is ongoing support from patients that they are willing to be empowered. There is a need to develop programmes that empower both healthcare workers and patients so that they become more comfortable in their roles.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Guideline Adherence
  • Hand Hygiene / methods*
  • Hand Hygiene / organization & administration
  • Humans
  • Patients / psychology*
  • Power, Psychological*