Cedars-Sinai Medical Center had a problem with doctors not washing their hands as often as they should. Apparently, this is a problem in many hospitals. But they fixed the problem. Not with implementing punishments and dinging people’s performance ratings. (Wouldn’t have mattered anyway–the doctors don’t work for the hospital.) The did it with Starbucks Gift Cards and a gross screen saver. The New York Times reports:

For the next six weeks, Silka and roughly a dozen other senior personnel manned the parking-lot entrance, handing out bottles of Purell to the arriving doctors. They started a Hand Hygiene Safety Posse that roamed the wards and let it be known that this posse preferred using carrots to sticks: rather than searching for doctors who weren’t compliant, they’d try to “catch” a doctor who was washing up, giving him a $10 Starbucks card as reward. You might think that the highest earners in a hospital wouldn’t much care about a $10 incentive — “but none of them turned down the card,” Silka says.

It brought compliance up, but not to the 90% level they wanted. (This is still not comforting to me–I would prefer 100% compliance, thank you!) So they took cultures from doctors hands, and made a screen saver that showed the resulting bacteria colonies. Then they placed it on every computer in the hospital.


And it worked. Carrots, not sticks. Educating not berating.

My only complaint is that I don’t drink coffee, so I would not appreciate a Starbucks gift card. Of course, seeing how I didn’t go to medical school, I don’t think I’m at risk of being handed one for washing my hands either.

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One thought on “Wash Your Hands

  1. Would a Starbucks card incentivize a barista to wash their hands? How about naming the doctors with high bacteria counts so I know whom to avoid?

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