hand hygiene Marketing Patient Safety patient safety

Are You Battling Germs or Bad Habits?

I was in a meeting the other day at a major medical center, and we were talking about hand hygiene compliance. The chief nursing officer and I were exchanging our thoughts on the matter when I said something that really seemed to get her attention. We were looking at a canned hand hygiene program where most of the messaging was about ‘germs.’ In looking over the campaign, it struck me that the messaging was all wrong. This campaign wasn’t speaking to anyone – it was talking about something. And it could easily be dismissed. So I blurted out: “When we’re trying to improve hand hygiene compliance germs aren’t the enemy, its human behavior.” The truth is that we’re fighting behavior patterns that have been established over a number of years – sometimes over an entire career. No wonder its so challenging. And no wonder that cute messaging about germs doesn’t get it done!

My firm belief is that any hand hygiene campaign has to speak directly to your employees (doctors, nurses, etc.) and patients, in a way that they know they are being addresses. That’s how you begin to break down barriers and begin to create an environment where it is okay for professionals to remind one another to wash up! If you aren’t comfortable addressing your employees directly through your campaign messaging, how can you expect them to ever get comfortable with addressing one another?

I like messaging that’s direct but friendly: “Hey doc, did you remember to wash your hands?” Or what about a sticker or poster over the patient’s bed that says “Hey doc, you wouldn’t examine me without washing first? Would you?” Or “Hey doc, I really appreciate you caring enough to wash, before and after examining me.” There can be no mistaking it, in these messages we are speaking to doctors. A campaign would need to include a variety of messages, targeting doctors, nurses, allied health professional and the like. But the point is, people need to know that this is about them and their behavior, not about germs! Non compliant behavior is the enemy.

Post by Dan Dunlop, The Healthcare Marketer

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