Engaging the patient as observer to promote hand hygiene compliance in ambulatory care

Mark J. Bittle, Suzanne LaMarche

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Background: Monitoring hand hygiene guideline compliance in an ambulatory environment can be challenging. For example, direct observation by independent observers is impractical because the sink and hand sanitizer dispensers are most often located inside the examination room. At Johns Hopkins Outpatient Center, an ambulatory care facility located on the campus of The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, patients were engaged as an observer in monitoring hand hygiene compliance. Methods: The Johns Hopkins Hospital's ambulatory quality and patient safety (AQPS) task force, after assessing common methods of monitoring hand hygiene compliance including direct observation, self-reporting, and product usage, evaluated using the patient as an observer. Results: Of 50 patients interviewed, 43 (86%) indicated a willingness to monitor and report providers' compliance with hand hygiene guidelines. In collaboration with providers, a patient-as-observer hand hygiene monitoring process was developed and piloted. Qualitative feedback postimplementation did not indicate that the process would inhibit the patient-provider relationship. The cost of the program to implement and maintain averages $0.17 per patient encounter. The overall patient response rate was 21.6% (range, 12%-77%), based on completed observation cards to total appointments completed. Hand hygiene compliance as measured by the patient-as-observer process averaged 88% (range, 74%-100%). Independent observation revealed 100% concurrence between the patients recorded observation and the independent observer. Discussion: Engaging the patient to report on hand hygiene compliance was found to be efficient and acceptable to patients and providers, and the results of the observations were representative of actual provider behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)519-525
Number of pages7
JournalJoint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Leadership and Management


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