Overcoming patient barriers to discussing physician hand hygiene: do patients prefer electronic reminders to other methods?

Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol. 2013 Sep;34(9):929-34. doi: 10.1086/671727. Epub 2013 Jul 26.


Background: Despite agreement that handwashing decreases hospital-acquired infections (HAIs), physician hand hygiene remains suboptimal. Interventions to empower patients to discuss handwashing have had variable success.

Objective: To understand patient perceived barriers to discussing physician hand hygiene and to determine whether patients prefer electronic alerts over printed information as an intervention to discuss physician handwashing.

Design: Cross-sectional study of 250 medical/surgical patients at an academic medical center.

Results: Ninety-six percent of patients had heard of HAIs. Ninety-six percent of patients thought it was important for physicians to clean their hands before touching anything in a patient's room. The majority of patients (78%) believed patients should remind physicians to clean their hands. Thirty-two percent of patients observed physician hand hygiene noncompliance. In multivariate analysis, predictors of not speaking up regarding physician hand hygiene included never having worked in health care (odds ratio [OR], 2.8 [95% confidence interval (CI), 1.5-5.1]), not observing a physician clean hands before touching the patient (OR, 2.4 [95% CI, 1.3-4.4]), and not thinking patients should have to remind physicians to clean hands (OR, 5.5 [95% CI, 2.4-12.7]). Ninety-three percent of patients favored electronic device reminders over printed information as an intervention to encourage patients to discuss hand hygiene with their doctors.

Conclusions: The strongest predictor of not challenging a doctor to clean their hands was not believing it was the patient's role to do so. Patients prefer electronic device reminders to printed information as an aid in overcoming barriers to discussing hand hygiene with physicians.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Attitude to Health
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Hand Hygiene / methods*
  • Hand Hygiene / standards
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Preference*
  • Patients / psychology*
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Physicians / psychology
  • Physicians / standards
  • Power, Psychological
  • Young Adult