Cinco de Mayo and Clean Your Hands Day

It seems that everyone knows that today is Cinco de Mayo, but did you also know that today is Save Lives: Clean Your Hands Day named by the World Health Organization (WHO)? DebMed has launched a page talking about the Clean Your Hands Day along with their Clean Hands for Health website.

Jason Anthony Tetro, a microbiologist known as “The Germ Guy,” if offering up these five facts about clean hands in healthcare:

  • More than 1.4 million people globally become seriously ill from healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) each year
  • Hand hygiene compliance in hospitals remains below 40%
  • At any time between 2 million and 10 million germs can be on your hands
  • Proper hand washing can prevent the spread of these germs
  • In hospitals, there are 5 Moments to know for clinicians to stop the spread of germs and deadly bacteria

When I hear about washing hands in healthcare, I’m reminded of a talk that Malcom Gladwell did a few years back at the Digital Health Conference. I wish I could have found the video of his talk online, but it seems like it’s not available. He covered a lot of the research and statistics of what really impacts hand washing in healthcare. As I recall, a picture on people’s desktops was the most impactful thing you can do to improve hand washing stats. Although, after his talk I can tell you that there was 100% hand washing compliance in the bathroom of the conference.

I was pointed to Clean Your Hands day by DebMed which has an obvious interest in hand washing giving their technology. Here’s a description of what they’re working on:

The DebMed GMS measures the hand hygiene compliance of physicians, nurses, therapists or other healthcare workers who come into contact with patients in hospitals and healthcare facilities. International patents are pending. The DebMed GMS is the world’s first and only electronic hand hygiene compliance monitoring system that meets the WHO’s “Save Lives: Clean Your Hands” recommendation.

A patent for the system, that was granted on April 13, 2013, covers several core technologies that provide a reliable system for collecting dispenser usage data (how many times healthcare workers within a specific unit actually washed and/or sanitized their hands). The system also uses an evidence-based algorithm to pre-determine the expected number of times they should have washed and/or sanitized their hands (hand hygiene opportunities), thus enabling the calculation of a compliance rate for that specific unit in real-time by dividing the actual hand hygiene events (or the numerator) by the expected number of opportunities for hand hygiene (the denominator).

Maybe I should have titled this post, bringing healthcare analytics to hand washing. That’s basically what they’re doing. There’s no better way to improve a result than to track it. I wonder how long until they pipe the handwashing notifications into the EHR. That’s not a far fetched idea. It wouldn’t be that hard. Makes me wonder how many hundreds of other things could be incorporated into an EHR if they were open to it.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference,, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.


  • You know what’s funny about this? We’ve been doing this for 10 years, and have had to TRAIN OTHER PROVIDERS to do it.

    We also have med students — and the first thing they get is a lecture on hand washing.

    Of course, we’re 100% pediatrics, and we are acutely aware of the germ factories our patients are.

  • Sue Ann,
    Good job. The interesting thing for me is that in all the doctor/hospital visits I’ve done it seems like all the nurses and doctors are constantly washing their hands. So, I wonder how it’s only 40% compliance.

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