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Opinion: Better hand-washing through technology

The New York Times, April 26, 2011

Why can't hospitals get health care workers to wash their hands? Hospitals in the United States enjoy access to running water. Virtually all of them have alcohol-rub dispensers, hundreds of them, in the hallways. Using one takes a few seconds. Yet health care workers fail to wash hands a good percentage of the times they should. Doctors are particularly bad. A health care worker's hands are the main route infections take to move from one patient to another. One recent study of several intensive care units—where the patients most vulnerable to infection reside—showed that hands were washed on only one quarter of the necessary occasions. It's not that hospitals are ignoring the problem—indeed, they are implementing all kinds of strategies to promote hand-washing. Nevertheless, it is rare to find a hospital that has been able to keep the hand-washing rate above 50 percent.