A recent New York Times Well blog post titled, “Getting doctors to wash their hands” reminds us that patients are not the only ones who can benefit from some good, theory-driven health communication.
Leave it to the psychologists to figure out what messages will and will not work for healthcare professionals, only 40 percent of whom regularly comply with commands to wash their hands before dealing with patients.
The researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill wondered if focusing messages on the needs of vulnerable patients instead of demanding that the doctors and nurses do something would increase compliance rates.
As reported by the NYT,
To find out, Dr. [David] Hofmann and his co-author, Adam Grant, took baseline measurements of the amount of soap and disinfectant caregivers used in a large North Carolina hospital. Then they measured the change in soap use when they put up different signs by the dispensers. One sign read “Hand Hygiene Prevents You from Catching Diseases.” Another read “Hand Hygiene Prevents Patients from Catching Diseases.” And a third sign, which served as a control, had a generic message: “Gel In, Wash Out.”
When the message “Hand Hygiene Prevents Patients from Catching Diseases” appeared next to the soap, the hospital employees used 33 percent more soap over a two week period than when either of the other signs were displayed.
If simple yet strategic and psychologically effective messages such as these can help decrease rates if hospital infections, then Upstream says let’s keep putting up the posters! What do you think about this method of reaching doctors and nurses with an important message? At what other points in the healthcare system could we make subtle changes in messages in order to reframe issues in ways that will help spark beneficial actions?