The eyes have it? Passive visual stimuli may enhance hand hygiene compliance.
A recent independent study in the American Journal of Infection Control (click here) explored the relationship between passive visual stimuli and its influence on people's behaviour. More specifically, could the image of a pair of eyes affect a persons behaviour such that hand hygiene compliance is increased. The study tested this hypothesis by measuring and recording the use of hand hygiene facilities which had a set of eyes 'watching' over them compared to those which did not.
As noted by the authors, overall compliance rates with hand hygiene guidelines in hospitals are estimated to be only 40 per cent!! Prior studies have shown that multifaceted approaches are needed to improve compliance in hand hygiene and that behavioural factors are an important part of this. Hand washing is directly linked to improved patient outcomes.
Yes, the simple addition of an image of a set of eyes of a recognisable thought leader over hand hygiene facilities increased hand hygiene compliance. Though it wasn't clear whether the eyes were successful because they drew attention to the hand hygiene facilities, or whether it is because they imply oversight of behaviour.
Why does this matter?
The authors suggest that visual stimuli could be a valuable supplement in encouraging behaviours that improve patient outcomes. With hand washing being the preeminent tool in preventing the transmission of infection, new/novel ways to boost compliance rates are required.
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