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J Hosp Infect. 2002 Jan;50(1):42-7.

Marketing hand hygiene in hospitals--a case study.

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Department of Microbiology and Infection Control, University Hospital Lewisham, London, UK.


Hand hygiene of healthcare workers is frequently poor despite the efforts of infection control teams to promote hand decontamination as the most important method to prevent transmission of hospital-acquired infections. In this case study, we describe how principles of societal marketing were applied to improve hand hygiene. Pre-marketing analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to implementation; attention to product, price, promotion and placement; and post-marketing 'customer' surveys were the essential components of the marketing strategy and its implementation. Placement of an alcohol-based gel decontaminant (Spirigel) at the bedside of every patient was widely welcomed in the hospital, and has played a major role in improving hand hygiene of healthcare workers. In the twelve months following the implementation, the decontaminant was used at least 440,000 times. The cost of purchasing the decontaminant was approximately 5000 pounds sterling. Following the introduction of Spirigel, there was a consistent reduction in the proportion of hospital-acquired methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in each of the quarters of 2000-2001 compared with 1999-2000. In the period 1999-2000, nearly 50% of the MRSA were hospital acquired compared with 39% in 2000-2001. Similarly, the average incidence of Clostridium difficile associated diarrhoea (CDAD) decreased in each of the quarters in 2000-2001 following the introduction of Spirigel. During this period, there was an average incidence of 9.5 cases of CDAD/1000 admissions compared with 11.5 cases of CDAD/1000 admissions in 1999-2000. This represents a 17.4% reduction in the incidence of CDAD. However, this reduction was not statistically significant (P=0.2). Our case study demonstrates that principles of societal marketing methods can be used effectively to promote and sustain hand hygiene in hospitals. Improvement in hand hygiene will lead to considerable reduction in hospital-acquired infections.

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