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How the Right Words Can Deliver a 6-Figure Payoff

Anna Webster, for HealthLeaders Media, September 14, 2011

"If Parkland Hospital had been a fast-food restaurant, inspectors would have closed it down and strapped the doors shut with yellow biohazard tape," writes HealthLeaders Media's John Commins.

Yikes. Even my five-year-old cousin remembers to scrub her hands with soap and water after getting dirty. What will it take to make physicians and other hospital staff remember wash their hands and change soiled bed sheets? A solution to the non-compliance problem may lay in hospital signage that appeals to human behavior.

Hand hygiene compliance rises significantly when hospital signage encourages healthcare professionals to consider the safety of their patients rather than themselves, according to a study in Psychological Science.

The It's Not All About Me: Motivating Hospital Hand Hygiene by Focusing on Patients, study involved posting one of three signs at 66 hand-washing stations at several hospitals:

  1. "Hand hygiene prevents you from catching diseases"
  2. "Hand hygiene prevents patients from catching diseases"
  3. "Gel in, wash out."

Of the three messages, the one that put the focus on patient safety was found to be most effective. The study measured soap dispenser volumes over two weeks and found that staff used 33% more soap when the signage emphasized patient safety.

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1 comments on "How the Right Words Can Deliver a 6-Figure Payoff"


D.Goins, LCSW (9/23/2011 at 2:48 PM)
perhaps a more graphic posting would help as well. I've worked in hospitals for most of my career, & therefore, attended universal precautions lectures on many occasions. I've seen the signs, heard the lectures, but no one has said "the rest of the story". When you do not wash your hands after using the toilet, when you go to eat, return to the restroom, go to the toilet & eat/drink your fill. & if that isn't disgusting enough... If you eat/drink, shake hands/touch anyone who hasn't washed their hands after using the toilet, &/or touched something they have then you might as well join them because you are ingesting/handling the things no one's body will handle. That's why it is waste. I hope this brings home just what the effects are of not washing your hands after your body rids itself of offal. Frankly, I don't want to eat my own offal, never mind your's! WASH YOUR HANDS, FOLKS. PLEASE!