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Hand hygiene compliance rates: Fact or fiction?

      Highlights

      • The Australian mandatory national hand hygiene program requires rates for 3 quarterly periods annually.
      • Human audits for 2 years and automated surveillance were compared for 2 teaching wards, and the magnitude of the Hawthorne effect was not trivial.
      • The magnitude of the Hawthorne effect was highest on the less compliant ward (53-66 percentage points), whereas the Hawthorne effect on the more compliant ward was high but half as great (25-37 percentage points).

      Background

      The mandatory national hand hygiene program requires Australian public hospitals to use direct human auditing to establish compliance rates. To establish the magnitude of the Hawthorne effect, we compared direct human audit rates with concurrent automated surveillance rates.

      Methods

      A large tertiary Australian teaching hospital previously trialed automated surveillance while simultaneously performing mandatory human audits for 20 minutes daily on a medical and a surgical ward. Subtracting automated surveillance rates from human audit rates provided differences in percentage points (PPs) for each of the 3 quarterly reporting periods for 2014 and 2015.

      Results

      Direct human audit rates for the medical ward were inflated by an average of 55 PPs in 2014 and 64 PPs in 2015, 2.8-3.1 times higher than automated surveillance rates. The rates for the surgical ward were inflated by an average of 32 PPs in 2014 and 31 PPs in 2015, 1.6 times higher than automated surveillance rates. Over the 6 mandatory reporting quarters, human audits collected an average of 255 opportunities, whereas automation collected 578 times more data, averaging 147,308 opportunities per quarter. The magnitude of the Hawthorne effect on direct human auditing was not trivial and produced highly inflated compliance rates.

      Conclusions

      Mandatory compliance necessitates accuracy that only automated surveillance can achieve, whereas daily hand hygiene ambassadors or reminder technology could harness clinicians' ability to hyperrespond to produce habitual compliance.

      Key Words

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