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February 2010

The future of hand hygiene?

Hand washing  The New York Times recently covered a new invention for cleaning hands: inserting hands into boxes delivering room temperature plasma. According to the article, this plasma is the same the lights neon signs and TV screens.  Imagine if health care workers could sanitize their hands in four seconds instead of the time it takes to sing Happy Birthday.  Given that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that clinicians only adhere to hand hygiene protocols 40% of the time, anything to improve practices in this area would be welcome.

But what is it that keeps health care professionals from sanitizing their hands?  Is it the length of time that it takes to do it?  Is it interrupting long-established work flow habits for any length of time?  We need more research to understand all of the impediments. However, we do know that getting people to establish good habits (even stopping for a 4-second hand cleaning) takes lots of work and constant feedback.  Unfortunately, even new inventions like these plasma cleaners can't change human nature.

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