eHealth, Emojis, and Empathy

More hygiene with teamwork and modern technology

The best possible hygiene quality...

…results from the optimal interaction of technology and empathy. Digital solutions are increasingly being used to improve hygiene compliance in healthcare facilities. They can serve as an effective help in education and knowledge transfer on the subject of hygiene. Just as important in this context: empathy and encouragement. Personal contact between colleagues therefore continues to play a key role.

"It is no longer a secret among doctors and nursing staff: the success of infection prevention in hospitals and nursing homes is directly related to the hygienic conditions on site. "

By far the most important lever for improving the quality of hygiene is hand disinfection. If this were always done at all the recommended times - for example, in the five hand hygiene indications defined by the WHO - it is estimated that about one third of all nosocomial infections, often referred to as healthcare-associated infections, could be avoided. Nevertheless, the implementation of these measures poses a major challenge for many medical institutions.

Hand holding mobile phone

To brave the challenges of hygiene compliance, more and more hospitals are also relying on digital helpers.

With the eHealth applications "Observe" and "My Hygiene SOP", HARTMANN provides applications that simplify the monitoring and evaluation of hygiene compliance via smartphone or tablet in hospitals and care facilities. With "Observe", hygiene professionals can observe their colleagues during hand disinfection and document in the app whether this is carried out at the right moments.

During observation, both applications:

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1. record data anonymously
2. evaluate automatically
3. display graphically

The apps are professional and contemporary alternatives to conventional observation on paper and a great time saver for the staff when manually transferring the data.

"Observe" records compliance in a mobile and uncomplicated way and, thanks to a link to the HAND-KISS surveillance module of the NRZ, offers a full view of hand hygiene. The quantitative consumption of disinfectant can be recorded for analysis as well as the qualitative evaluation of hand hygiene compliance. The automatic evaluation leads to a clear picture of the compliance on the respective ward with consistently high data quality.

"Hand hygiene compliance can be significantly improved with 'Observe' and 'My Hygiene SOP'."

This is not least due to the fact that the app provides immediate feedback to the respective caregiver after each observation.

Martin Leidner, Hygiene Specialist at the Marienhaus Klinikum Hetzelstift in Neustadt an der Weinstraße
Martin Leidner, Hygiene Specialist at the Marienhaus Klinikum Hetzelstift in Neustadt an der Weinstraße.

During his regular tours of the wards, Leidner, who has been working at the Marienhaus Klinikum for almost 20 years and has been a hygiene specialist since 2012, usually has his tray with him. This way he can always spontaneously offer nursing staff to observe their hygiene behaviour in direct contact with patients and make suggestions for improvement.

"The personal, direct feedback is worth its weight in gold."

Leidner describes this regular work with the app as "collegial coaching"

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"Using the smiley symbols of "My Hygiene SOP", I can show the nursing staff in a nice and friendly way which steps they have taken during a nursing activity and how well," says the hygiene expert. "And once a negative smiley face is included, it's usually accepted."

According to Leidner, direct interpersonal exchange is far more helpful in improving hygiene compliance than a file folder full of sober statistical evaluations based on repeated standardised observations.

Illustration of nurse holding hand before mouth

In the meantime, Leidner is increasingly being asked by nurses and doctors alike for appointments for coaching. Because his colleagues know how important good hand hygiene is and see working with the apps as an advantage.

On the other hand, Leidner also encounters skepticism from time to time in his work. Some caregivers perceive the observations as an attempt to control the situation.

"Unless there is something acutely wrong, I therefore try to impose myself as little as possible," says Leidner. He hopes for a slow but steady change in mentality and the resulting increase in acceptance of technical support in the health sector.

After all, any improvement in hygienic conditions can save lives.

Leidner knows this not only from his many years of experience as a hygiene specialist, but also from his voluntary work as an infection control nurse in Ghana. Since 2006 he has been travelling once a year to the West African country as part of a GRVD e.V. aid project. There, he carries out hygiene projects at St. Martin's Catholic Hospital in Agroyesum, for example for alcoholic hand disinfection.

"One thing is clear: digital helpers such as 'Observe' and 'My Hygiene SOP' should not and will never replace the interpersonal component in everyday work, but rather supplement it."

"It is important for the nursing staff to be on site on the ward," says hygiene specialist Leidner. His work cannot be done from a desk - the constant personal exchange with the nursing staff remains indispensable. "I regularly seek direct contact and offer my support to colleagues," says Leidner. This helps both sides: "On the one hand, I ask them about their problems, and on the other hand I can gain valuable information in return.”

Any technical support in improving hygiene compliance is therefore more than welcome.

However, tools such as "Observe" and "My Hygiene SOP" only develop their full effect in combination with the human component - the best possible hygiene quality results from the optimal interaction of technology and empathy.

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