Should hospitals ban handshakes to prevent infections?

July 16, 2014

A physician walks into an exam room and extends his hand to the patient. The gesture is simple, serving as a universal greeting and a polite introduction. Immediately the patient feels more at ease.

But could this small exchange be doing more harm than good? Do the infection control risks that go along with hand-to-hand contact between physicians, patients, and family members outweigh the social expectations of American culture and the healthcare environment?These are the questions that have been asked by researchers at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) in a May editorial published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Although few studies show a direct link between handshakes and transmission of infections, robust hand hygiene programs have been shown to be the simplest and most effective way to limit the spread of diseases. Therefore, hospitals should consider a ban on handshakes between physicians and patients and family members.

This is an excerpt from an article in Patient Safety Monitor Journal.

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