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J Hosp Infect. 2011 Apr;77(4):290-3. doi: 10.1016/j.jhin.2010.12.011.

Routine hand hygiene audit by direct observation: has nemesis arrived?

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City University London, London, UK.


Infection prevention and control experts have expended valuable health service time developing and implementing tools to audit health workers' hand hygiene compliance by direct observation. Although described as the 'gold standard' approach to hand hygiene audit, this method is labour intensive and may be inaccurate unless performed by trained personnel who are regularly monitored to ensure quality control. New technological devices have been developed to generate 'real time' data, but the cost of installing them and using them during routine patient care has not been evaluated. Moreover, they do not provide as much information about the hand hygiene episode or the context in which hand hygiene has been performed as direct observation. Uptake of hand hygiene products offers an inexpensive alternative to direct observation. Although product uptake would not provide detailed information about the hand hygiene episode or local barriers to compliance, it could be used as a continuous monitoring tool. Regular inspection of the data by infection prevention and control teams and clinical staff would indicate when and where direct investigation of practice by direct observation and questioning of staff should be targeted by highly trained personnel to identify local problems and improve practice.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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