NY Hospital Installs Hand-Washing Cam

Doctors and nurses in the ICU at Long Island’s North Shore University Hospital are being watched by 39 video cameras in an effort to increase compliance with hand washing. According to a report, hand-washing compliance is up from less than 10% to 90% since the program started. Cameras are positioned near the doors of patient rooms and at sinks. Patients are not being videoed. The real-time feed is observed by workers in India. Staff failure to wash hands is noted, and the results are posted on electronic bulletin boards in the unit. So far, miscreants are simply talked to. “No one’s been fired, no one’s been written up, but there have been one-on-ones,” the news story says and, “Infections have decreased though an exact percentage was unavailable.” That raises the question: How they would know if infections have really decreased if the exact percentage is unavailable? And here’s another question: “Is the decrease statistically significant?” This venture, while well-intended, seems like a bad idea to me. I suppose you are thinking, “Could Skeptical Scalpel really be against hand washing?” Well, I’m not. But what seems logical and correct sometimes may not be. For example, everyone knows that sinks with faucets that have electronic eye sensors are cleaner and better to use in hospitals than sinks with manual faucets, right? A study presented at a meeting of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America last year by a group from Johns Hopkins concluded the following: “Electronic faucets were more likely to become contaminated with Legionella spp. (species) and other bacteria after water system disruption. Electronic faucets were less likely to...