Red flashing lights improve hand hygiene compliance

Patient Safety Monitor Insider

August 20, 2014

Infection control experts are always looking for new ways to get healthcare workers to remember to wash their hands. It turns out one of the most effective is the same way the police get you to pull over—flashing red lights, according to a report in Outpatient Surgery magazine.

A new study in the American Journal of Infection Control assessed the effectiveness of placing blinking red lights on hand sanitizer dispensers located in the lobby of a large academic hospital. The study watched 15,000 opportunities for hand hygiene on weekday mornings during 3 study periods conducted in January and April 2013.

According to the magazine’s report, hand hygiene compliance improved from approximately 13% without use of the blinking lights to 23.5% during cold weather (when individuals wearing gloves were presumably less likely to comply) and 27.1% during warm weather when the lights were activated.

Researchers in the report say the inexpensive lights don’t require education or training, can be installed in half a day, are easily replaced and effective immediately, making them a potentially useful way to increase short-term hand hygiene compliance.