The Wall Street Journal:
Ah, the simple act of hand-washing. It’s a simple, cheap way to prevent spreading infection in hospitals. And yet, research suggests compliance with so-called “hand hygiene” guidelines is less than 50% in many hospitals.
Proposed solutions have included penalizing doctors and nurses who don’t follow the rules, sending in undergrad volunteers to look over the shoulders of staff, using video surveillance to identify offenders and employing high-tech sensors to gauge whether a health-care worker has recently used alcohol gel.
Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist and associate professor of management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, had a different idea. When he spent time in the hospital for the birth of his first daughter, he noticed signs telling personnel to wash their hands — and also noted a flaw.
All of them emphasized hand-washing (or using alcohol gel) as a way to protect the health-care worker from getting sick. But “people are resistant to recognizing personal health threats,” Grant tells the Health Blog. They don’t believe it will happen to them — particularly since they can look back and recall plenty of times when they didn’t wash up and didn’t get sick.
He and his co-author, David Hofmann of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, tested a different approach: emphasizing patient health. In a paper that will be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Psychological Science, they describe two experiments that pitted a sign stating that “Hand hygiene prevents you from catching diseases” against one stating that “Hand hygiene prevents patients from catching diseases.”
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