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Electronic hand hygiene monitoring: accuracy, impact on the Hawthorne effect and efficiency

Gould, D., Lindström, H., Purssell, E. ORCID: 0000-0003-3748-0864 & Wigglesworth, N. (2020). Electronic hand hygiene monitoring: accuracy, impact on the Hawthorne effect and efficiency. Journal of Infection Prevention, 21(4), pp. 136-143. doi: 10.1177/1757177420907999


To evaluate a type five electronic monitoring system (EMS) for hand hygiene (HH) adherence with respect to accuracy and ability to avoid the Hawthorne effect.

HH events were observed manually and electronically. The agreement between the two observation methods was evaluated. Continuous electronic measurement was made throughout the study.

An acute 31-bed medical ward in a National Health Service trust in London, United Kingdom.

Staff working or attached to the ward.

A newly developed type five EMS that can measure disinfectant dispenser usage as well as continuous movements of health workers throughout the ward with arm-length precision and analyse HH adherence was installed at the ward.

A total of 294 HH events were observed in five sessions by an observer previously unknown to the ward. There was concordance between HH adherence assessed by manual observer and the EMS on 84% (79.1%–89.9%) of the occasions. During the five observation sessions, the observed HH adherence increased from 24% to 76% while the EMS measurements immediately before the arrival of the observer remained constant for all sessions.

The 84% agreement between the EMS and the manual observation suggest a high level of precision for the evaluated system. The Hawthorne effect (higher rate of HH performance) was clearly seen in the increase by a factor of three in the manually observed adherence from session to session as the health workers became more aware of them being observed. The EMS was able to avoid the Hawthorne effect when the observer was not present.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 License ( which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (
Publisher Keywords: Hand hygiene; audit; technology
Subjects: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Nursing
Text - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial.

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