Doctors aren't washing their hands as thoroughly as they should be

Doctors Aren't Washing Their Hands as Thoroughly as They Should Be

A new study shows health care providers are twice as likely to comply with hand-hygiene guidelines if they know they're being watched.

Researchers studied doctors in the infection prevention department at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose, California, over the course of six months.

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ABC reports that doctors who knew they were being watched by infection prevention nurses adhered to washing guidelines 57 percent of the time. But doctors who were unaware they were being watched by anonymous volunteers had a compliance rate of only 22 percent.

This is a textbook example of the Hawthorne Effect, which states that people change their behavior when they know they're under observation.

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Study authors say "unknown observers should be used to get the most accurate hand hygiene data."
Accurate data is important: The World Health Organization recognizes hands as a major infection risk — and this study is just the latest to show they probably aren't washed as thoroughly as you'd think.

The organization reports average compliance with hand-sanitation guidelines sits at 38.7 percent. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds a 40 percent average.

RELATED: US News top recommended health products:

US News ​Pharmacists' picks: Top recommended health products
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Doctors aren't washing their hands as thoroughly as they should be

The first step to accessing the recommendations is to select from among the following broad product groups. Here are the 13, along with standout winners.

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Cough, Cold and Allergy

- Cold Remedies: Cepacol

- Oral Antihistamines: Claritin

- Oral Decongestants: Sudafed (pseudoephedrine)

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Diabetes Health

- Diabetic Neuropathy Products: Capzasin

- Diabetic Multivitamins: Nature Made

- Oral Glucose Products: Glucerna

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- Blood Sampling Devices/Lancets: OneTouch

- Blood Pressure Monitors: Omron

- Peak Flow Meters: Omron

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Eyes, Ears, Nose and Throat 

- Contact Lens Solutions: Opti-Free 

- Saline Nasal Moisturizers: Ocean

- Sore Throat Liquids, Sprays and Strips: Chloraseptic

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First Aid

- Adhesive Bandages: Band-Aid

- Topical Antibiotics and Antiseptics: Neosporin

- Sun Burn Relief: Solarcaine (Cool Aloe Burn Relief Formula Pain Relieving Gel)

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Oral Care

- Cold Sore Treatments: Abreva

- Toothpaste (general use): Crest 

- Therapeutic Mouthwashes/Oral Rinses: Listerine

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Pain and Inflammation

- Headache Products: Advil

- Migraine Headache Products: Excedrin Migraine

- Anti-Inflammatory Products: Advil

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- Children’s Cough and Cold Combinations: Children’s Dimetapp

- Infant Formula: Enfamil

- Children’s Sore Throat Products: Chloraseptic Kids Sore Throat Spray

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Stomach and GI

- Upset Stomach Remedies: Pepto-Bismol

- Antacids: Tums

- Nausea Remedies: Emetrol

Image Credit: Alamy


- Sunscreen: Neutrogena

- Lip Balms: Carmex

- Acne Products: Neutrogena

Image Credit: Getty

Vitamins and Supplements

- Nutritional Supplements: Ensure

- Multivitamins: Centrum

- Prenatal Vitamins: One A Day Prenatal

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Women's Health

- Menstrual Pain Relief: Midol

- PMS Symptom Relief: Hyland’s PMS

- Urinary Pain Relief: AZO Standard

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More Health Products

- Sleep Aids: Unisom

- Smoking Cessation Aids: NicoDerm CQ Patch

- Snore Aids: Breathe Right

Image Credit: Getty


This video includes clips from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization.

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