The Difficulty of Handwashing Compliance
The New York Times recently wrote an interesting piece about the importance of hand-washing in hospitals. It turns out that only 30% of medical professionals wash their hands appropriately, leading to billions of dollars in downstream costs from readmissions, malpractice and secondary infections. While the exact reasons for poor adherence are the subject of speculation, a number of companies have jumped into the fray to try and solve the problem. Their solutions often rest heavily on gamification.
For regular readers of this blog and followers of engagement science, this will come as no great surprise. After all, game-like approaches to hand-washing compliance have been popular with parents and teachers for some time (examples including government ones). What’s interesting that while the gamified connection with kids seems obvious, it’s taken much longer for that leap to be made in adults. Perhaps the next hybrid will be to reward non-professional adults for washing hands in public places using gamification, much the way that japanese urinal “aim game” has been used to improve public hygiene.
One Israeli-based startup by the name of Hyginex attempts to address these issues by providing a bracelet that monitors hand washing activity and even provides audio/haptic feedback to remind doctors to wash their hands. According to Fast Company, the bracelet has raised handwashing compliance from 25% to 44% and even increased handwashing duration, as well as amount of soap used. While the feedback mechanism exists here for adults, this isn’t exactly a game — it’s a device born out of necessity and is likely more nagging than it is fun. In a world of increased distractions everyday, the feedback acts as a an important reminder that doctors are working with the lives of people and that a game-over scenario is unacceptable.
The moral in any case is the same: people don’t always do what’s best for them, even when lives depend on it. To improve adherence and outcomes, a little gamification goes a long way.