Archive for the ‘hand hygiene’ Category

img_8795Starbucks is part of my daily routine and has been for years. On Swarm, I am the mayor of my local Starbucks. The people in my neighborhood shop know me by name and give me incredible service.

When the company rolled out its mobile order service in 2015, I watched with interest. It really has changed the dynamic in the store. With all of these online orders flooding in, it is difficult to know where my order falls in the queue. That said, mobile ordering hasn’t diminished the quality of my customer experience, but it has introduced an unexpected health concern.

A health risk: One problem with the online ordering is that the person who ordered the drink is often not in the store when the drink is prepared. The barista calls our the name on the order (“Mobile order for Dan”), and then places the drink on the counter with all of the other mobile orders. Suddenly, there are a bunch of drinks on the counter. As customers enters the store looking for their online orders, they start handling (touching) the drinks to find their own. You see, the stickers Starbucks prints out and places on the cups aren’t particularly easy to read and are often covered up by the cup sleeve or are turned away from the customer. People continually walk up to the array of drinks and manipulate them to determine which one is their order. Let me be clear, I don’t want anyone handling my drink. But what I object to the most is people who handle the cups by grabbing them by the lid. I see this happen every day at my Starbucks and at other locations that I visit during my travels. (I have a similar issue with restaurant menus that are not sanitized after each use.)

fullsizerender-4In my line of work I have developed a keen appreciation for hand hygiene – and an understanding of just how many people fail to adhere to good hand hygiene practices. These Starbucks customers could have the flu or some other contagious condition, and are touching the lid of a drink that may not be their own. The germs travel from their hand to another customer’s lips. It is disgusting. It is bad hygiene that could lead to the transmission of nasty infections!

What should Starbucks do? I believe Starbucks should encourage customers not to handle cups by the lids. That seems like a simple message that could be communicated in the store through signage. Starbucks could also coach baristas to place the cups on the bar with the sticker facing the customer. That would make it easier (still not perfect) for customers to identify their drinks. I’m sure there are a number of solutions. My objective is to keep Starbucks from becoming a distribution point for the spread of the common cold, influenza, noroviruses, nosocomial infections, hepatitis and other diseases/illnesses that are easily transmitted by touch. Is that too much to ask?


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Here’s a quick video I recorded addressing the need for healthcare marketers to be engaged in patient safety conversations and solutions. Enjoy!


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IMG_1515One of the themes that has remained constant throughout my career has been my interest in promoting patient safety with the ultimate goal of preventing patients and employees from experiencing unnecessary harm (falls, hospital acquired infections, etc). I was thrilled back in 2011 when an article I co-authored, featuring a patient safety campaign my firm had produced for Tufts Medical Center, was published in the Joint Commission’s Journal on Quality and Patient Safety. Dr. David Fairchild (the former CMO at Tufts Medical Center) and I presented that same patient safety program at the 2009 SHSMD conference. But that’s all ancient history.

For the last several months, my firm has been working with Signature Healthcare in southeastern Massachusetts to launch a patient safety campaign that promotes their Culture of Safety. This is Signature Healthcare’s top organizational priority and it has been exciting to develop the communications that will support the initiative.

Yesterday we helped Signature Healthcare launch their patient safety campaign. Tim Brennan and Bailey Woodling from the Jennings team were in Massachusetts for the launch events. Many of the photos you’ll see below came from them. Enjoy! From the look of the photos, the launch events were a big success. Now the hard work starts – sustaining a high level of awareness and interest while building a true culture of safety.


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Kim and group


Tim with sign




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I’ve been blogging now for seven years. I believe I wrote my first blog post in May 2007. The experience has been fascinating. There are times when I’m able to step back and look at my blogging life as if I were a disinterested third party. It is at those times that it becomes apparent that my blog has taken on a life of its own!

Screen Shot 2014-01-16 at 5.15.02 PMOne thing I’ve learned is that successful bloggers are prized by commercial enterprises as potential distribution outlets for messaging about their products and services. I’m contacted daily by people who want me to share their press releases (this includes major health insurance companies and medical centers), to write about new technologies, or to place their advertising on my blog. People also contact me with genuine questions about a given blog post or topic. Because I’ve written a great deal about patient safety and hand hygiene, I receive all kinds of inquiries about those topics in particular. During flu season (right now), that activity escalates.

I am always open to people contacting me, grateful for their comments, and do my best to respond to their questions. Occasionally I approach these inquiries with suspicion because of the way they are worded (typically these are email messages). That was the case yesterday when a woman named Sarah emailed me regarding one of my blog posts dealing with a hand hygiene campaign my firm produced for Tufts Medical Center. Something wasn’t right about her email. Here is a transcipt of Sarah’s message to me:


My name is Sarah________ and I am doing a project into the best way to tackle the problem of antibiotic resistance. I was interested to see the graph at https://thehealthcaremarketer.wordpress.com/2009/10/01/today-cmo-stands-for-chief-medical-officer/ showing the changes in MRSA rates along with the improving hand hygiene compliance at Tufts Medical Center. If it would be possible, I would love to be able to look further at this data, considering the other factors which could have influenced the decreasing MRSA rates and the costs behind putting in place the patients safety campaign.

I would like to be able to use this to evaluate the method of improving infection prevention and control practices in tackling antibiotic resistance. Please could you tell me more about this?

Thank you so much,


Within her message, Sarah never disclosed who she works for? What organization does she represent? That is usually not a good sign. And she’s asking for access to our data? I was leery. So, I emailed Sarah, thanking her for contacting me and asked where she works. This was her response:


I am 16 years old and still at school doing an extended project as part of my A levels. I am hoping to go to university and study veterinary medicine and am especially interested in antibiotics and the problems they could cause.



Isn’t that cool? Evidently Sarah is in secondary school in the UK. 16-years-old and she’s emailing me for information about hospital acquired infections and antibiotic resistance! I love it. It makes me smile. From my perspective, Sarah contacting me was a gift. I was able to send her an article I co-authored with several physicians from Tufts Medical Center that appeared in the Joint Commission’s Journal of Quality & Patient Safety (Volume 37, Issue 1). Hopefully that will give her the information she needs for her school project. She was very appreciative and thanked me for the help.

When I started blogging, my philosophy was all about sharing. In my role at Jennings I come across interesting information on a daily basis. My goal was to share that information with other healthcare marketers and communicators who may not have access to the same information. For the most part, I’ve been true to that goal and have thoroughly enjoyed the life of a blogger. I am grateful for people like Sarah who actually read my blog, find something of value, and contact me for more information. That makes it worthwhile. Thanks Sarah.

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Screen shot 2012-12-17 at 2.43.24 PMEarlier this week I was contacted by Bob Allen, the VP of Communications at Crouse Hospital in Syracuse, New York. I am grateful to Bob for sharing with me a special project that was undertaken by a small group of Crouse clinicians. Dave Martin, RN, Infection Control; Todd Olrich, CNS; Waleed Javaid, MD, Infection Control Medical Director; Mickey Lebowitz, MD, Senior Medical Quality Director; and Dennis Brown, MD, Senior Surgical Quality Director all got together and created a video titled “The Germinator.” Not only did they create the video, but they starred in it as well! As Crouse states on its website, “this team produced a ‘homemade’ video that uses music and humor to convey a very important message: Hospital Acquired Conditions (HACs) are deadly serious – and Crouse Hospital is deadly serious about reducing and eliminating them.” My understanding is that the idea for the video came from the very fertile and active mind of Mickey Lebowitz, MD, who serves as senior medical quality director for Crouse Hospital.

According to Bob, employees who have seen the video love it. What more can you ask? If it’s generating talk among hospital employees, then I judge it to be a success. Congrats to the team at Crouse Hospital.

Check out the video below. Enjoy! Isn’t it cool that these clinicians took the initiative to produce this video all on their own? I applaud the initiative. For more info on the campaign, click here.

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Over the years I’ve written a ton of posts about hand hygiene. I’m passionate about it. I’ve develop hand hygiene campaigns, spoken on the topic at healthcare conferences, written articles about it, and was even quoted in USA Today in a story about the H1N1 or swine flu where I discussed the importance of hand hygiene to help manage the spread of the flu (“Your Health: More dirt on disease and washing your hands,” USA Today, May 18, 2009).  So I was thrilled to see this crazy SportsCenter commercial from ESPN. The announcers from ESPN discuss (tongue and cheek) how rapidly and mysteriously colds spread throughout their office. You’ll understand why in the commercial below. Have fun.

Agency: Wieden + Kennedy New York;  Director: Jim Jenkins

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William Heisel, a well-respected health journalist, blogger and investigative reporter, has brought us an exceptional three-part series of blog posts about health workers inadvertently passing along communicable pathogens that may lead to deadly infections, primarily because of their choice to wear contaminated clothing (scrubs) in public. He calls it his “scrubs series” and it all began with a post titled “Hospital scrubs and sandwiches should not mix.” Find it online at http://tinyurl.com/4yhtfrl. The series features the thoughts of Dr. David C. Martin, a retired Sacramento anesthesiologist a former assistant professor in the Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine at UC Davis Medical Center. According to Heisel, Dr. Martin “has a niche mission that Antidote has never seen championed before. He wants to rid America’s restaurants of medical staff eating in scrubs.” Dr. Martin goes on to make a compelling case over the three part series. Agree with him or not, I love his single minded passion for this issue. It is a passion I share and have written about in the past. Lots of people pay lip service to this public health issue, but it is amazing to me to see how little progress we make in reducing illness and death caused by these largely avoidable infections that are now moving beyond the walls of the hospital. Dr. Martin continues the theme in Part Two of the series titled “Superbugs may show up wearing hospital scrubs.” Find it online at http://tinyurl.com/4yhtfrl.

As you might expect, the series has stirred up some controversy. After the first two parts of the series ran last week, Heisel commented on the reaction among healthcare professionals:

“The idea of telling health care workers they should not wear their scrubs outside the hospital lit up the social media world this week. Dr. David C. Martin, a retired Sacramento anesthesiologist who abhors the too-casual practice of scrubs on the street, has hit a nerve.”

The final segment in the series is titled “Hospital scrub scrapping, and patient safety, can start with one tough conversation.” You can find it at http://bit.ly/edyBce.

I want give a ton of credit to William Heisel and Dr. Martin for bringing us this series and for stirring up public discourse. Well done!

William Heisel has reported on health for most of his career. His work as an investigative reporter at the Los Angeles Times and the Orange County Register exposed problems with the fertility industry, the trade in human body parts and the use of illegal drugs in sports. He helped create a first-of-its-kind report card judging hospitals on a wide array of measures for a story that was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He was one of the lead reporters on a series of stories about lead in candy, a series that also was a finalist for the Pulitzer. Heisel writes about investigative health reporting and occasionally breaks news on his blog, Antidote. You can follow his on Twitter @wheisel.

Post by Dan Dunlop, The Healthcare Marketer

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