17 years is a long time.

That’s how long has passed since the first Tagg Clean-Hands® Sanitizing Station was made to help hospitals deal with the aftermath of the SARS epidemic, and in that time we have learned a few things about what works in hand hygiene promotion and what doesn’t.

So, with May 5th coming up (The World Health Organization’s World Hand Hygiene Day) we thought we’d share our secrets and observations!

Lesson 1: Hand hygiene promotion must include everybody.

Stop: Clean Your Hands Symbol

We’ve written about this before, but many medical disciplines tend to think of hand hygiene as a human resources issue – focusing their attention almost exclusively on staff training and compliance.  While this still has some positive effect on patient safety, it neglects ambulatory patients (folks coming in for dialysis or an examination) and visitors – who often outnumber staff!

We also feel that this can and should make its way to other public spaces, like schools, offices and retail.  We’re not quite there yet; retail in particular seems to like the small sanitizer stands that simply lack pull power at a distance. They just aren’t substantial, well-placed or readable enough to accomplish their potential.

Tagg Clean-Hands Sanitizing Station
Tagg Clean-Hands® Sanitizing Station. Simple, effective and sustainable.

Lesson 2: Advanced technology is sexy but often not sustainable.

The basic, modern concept of hand hygiene has been around for over 150 years now, ever since Ignaz Semmelweis made the connection between hygiene and infection, and even then it was a controversial idea. How could something so old and simple (cleaning your hands) possibly reduce the rates of illness and death?

In today’s world, just like back then, we are easily distracted by things that are shiny and trendy and prone to overlook the simple and effective.

Electric hands-free dispensers take environmentally-unfriendly batteries and are often prone to activate on their own if the building lights hit it in the wrong direction.  Digital signage is fancy and shiny, but the maintenance costs both in hardware and software are through the roof.  And it’s not just practicality and cost that is at stake, more complicated also means harder to use!

A manual dispenser, changeable message area and a Stop: Clean Your Hands sign like on our Tagg Clean-Hands® Sanitizing Stations simply just work and keep working.  They will never be rendered obsolete, require software updates or a battery change.

Lesson 3: Hand hygiene promotion is crucial to keep up even if COVID is airborne.

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, people were struggling to understand this virus and its means of transmission.  The discussion of whether it was spread through droplets or airborne led to upgrades of ventilation systems and widespread wearing of masks, but we fear that it also lead many to consider hand hygiene as being ineffective against it, or merely a placebo.

Why is this the wrong approach?

Firstly, COVID-19 is not the only reason to clean one’s hands.  Before the pandemic, antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection was a major concern in hospitals, and despite a global pandemic taking all the recent attention hasn’t gone anywhere.  The main weapon against them is to simply avoid infection in the first place.  There are countless other pathogens that are similarly preventable, and they can come from both inside and outside health facilities, carried on the hands of visitors and staff.

Healthy Visitors Only Symbol

Secondly by involving every visitor to a facility in practicing hand hygiene at a formal hand sanitizing station, you immediately embed infection prevention behaviours into their visit.  Through signage you can connect visitors to wear masks, self-screen themselves before visiting, reinforce that they sanitize before and after touching their loved ones and more.

So, that’s a lot to absorb.

The overall lesson?  Let’s not get distracted from what works, and what works is hand hygiene promotion that is simple, focused and effective.

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