Healthcare News & Insights

Placement matters with hand sanitizer dispensers for visitors

Making sure everyone follows correct hand hygiene protocol at your hospital is important. It’s hard enough to get doctors and nurses to wash their hands regularly, but you also have to worry about visitors’ hand hygiene. 

Hand sanitizer dispenserWhile you can’t make patients’ friends and family wash their hands, there are actions you can take to stop the spread of germs.

Hospital visitors can inadvertently bring all types of bacteria in from the outside, which contributes to the spread of infections in vulnerable patients. According to a news release, new research shows that facilities can better address this problem with the use of strategically placed hand sanitizer dispensers.

Observing behavior

A study published in the American Journal of Infection Control tested how likely visitors were to use hand sanitizer before entering patient areas based on where the dispensers were located.

Researchers placed the dispensers in three areas at Greenville Memorial Hospital in South Carolina:

  • the middle of the hospital visitors’ entrance, just in front of the revolving door
  • in front of the information desk, and
  • between the main revolving door and the side door to the lobby.

To see which dispensers were used most often, researchers observed thousands of visitors during peak visiting hours, which were 10 to 11:30 a.m. and 4 to 5:30 p.m., over a three-week period at the facility.

Result: Visitors were most likely to use hand sanitizer when a dispenser was placed in the middle of the hospital lobby floor by the visitor entrance area. The dispensers located near the information desk and to the side of the lobby weren’t nearly as popular.

Other factors also influenced whether a visitor would sanitize his or her hands upon entering the visiting area. Interestingly, children and young adults were almost 50% more likely to use hand sanitizer dispensers than their elders. And people who came to the hospital in groups were about 40% more likely to use a hand sanitizer dispenser than those who visited alone.

Location, location, location

With fewer than 1% of visitors saying they washed their hands before seeing patients, according to prior research, anything a hospital can do to encourage some form of hand hygiene has benefits for patients.

If your facility is installing hand sanitizer dispensers for visitors, it’s probably best to place them in a prominent area that’s in clear view right as they enter the hospital. Posting signs reminding visitors of the importance of sanitizing or washing their hands before seeing patients may also be helpful in boosting their compliance.

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