Doctors, Nurses Wash Hands More Under Video Surveillance: Study

Since cameras were installed, handwashing has increased.

By Edward B. Colby and DeMarco Morgan
|  Tuesday, Nov 29, 2011  |  Updated 9:07 PM EDT
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North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset has installed a new video surveillance system to keep track of employees hygiene habits. DeMarco Morgan reports.

NBC New York

North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset has installed a new video surveillance system to keep track of employees hygiene habits. DeMarco Morgan reports.

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Staffers at a Long Island hospital are washing their hands a lot more now that they are being watched by video cameras.

Since North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset installed cameras to monitor doctors and nurses entering and exiting medical and surgical intensive care units, handwashing has risen to nearly 90 percent compliance.

Dr. Bruce Farber, the chief of infectious disease at the hospital, had the monitoring system installed and was given a $50,000 state health grant to study it as part of a hand hygiene research project. Doctors and nurses are given 10 seconds to wash at each hand sanitizing station, and a blinking red light tells them the shot has been recorded.

The system "cuts down on infections. It's the number one killer in hospitals around the world," ICU manager William Senicola told NBC New York.

"The main objective is always the patient — to try and decrease the infection rate," he said.

Hospital management review the recordings. The electronic eavesdropping system posts updates on staffers’ compliance on a LED board every 10 minutes, though only positive messages are noted there, according to Farber.

His study was just published in the Clinical Infectious Diseases journal.

North Shore previously used a secret nurse or doctor to keep track of staffers’ handwashing, which they did about 60 percent of the time.

One in 20 patients develops infections while in a hospital, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"The main change for the staff was just a change in culture," Senicola said, "a change in washing your hands every time you're going near a patient."

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