Online Handwashing Tool Reduces Infections, Study Finds

Failure to follow handwashing protocols can cost hospitals and other healthcare settings big—by spreading infections to staff and patients, and by incurring hospital-acquired infection penalties. However, use of an interactive, Internet-based program called PRIMIT helped reduce respiratory infections by 14 percent, and lowered gastrointestinal illnesses, according to a study published in the journal Lancet.

PRIMIT is an online tool that includes four weekly tutorials that offer medical information, outline simple steps to help participants avoid catching and passing on viruses, monitor users’ hand washing habits, and provide personalized feedback, according to the study.

British researchers tested the tool’s effectiveness with 20,000 people, in households in the UK, during the winter flu season. One group of participants were placed in the control group that used PRIMIT throughout the season, while the other half of the group did not.

After the six-week study period, 51 percent of people in the PRIMIT group had at least one respiratory infection, compared with 59 percent of those in the control group. Additionally, investigators found that the PRIMIT group had a 20 percent lower risk of catching a flu-like illness.

“In non-pandemic years, an effective internet intervention designed to increase handwashing could have an important effect in reduction of infection transmission,” study authors wrote. “In view of the heightened concern during a pandemic and the likely role of the internet in access to advice, the intervention also has potential for effective implementation during a pandemic.”

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