The CDC reports that on any given day about 1 in 25 patients gets an infection. That’s roughly 2 million people per year, and hand hygiene contributes significantly to the problem.


Yes, hand washing translates to incalculable suffering and millions of dollars of unnecessary health care cost and waste.


Health care workers may need to wash their hands more than 100 times a day to meet recommended standards of care. Doctors and nurses wash their hands approximately one-third to one-half as often as they should, to say nothing of the remaining hospital staff.


When we talk about behavior change over culture change, look no further than handwashing in care settings. A generic “patients first” campaign or a “quality first” campaign can really miss the point when it would be a huge victory simply to get more people to wash their hands more often.


The question is how to change that behavior? Most organizations know what won’t work. We know that 75 percent of change efforts fail. Those companies are doing things like creating poster campaigns or adding a sidebar to the company newsletter. But putting another poster on the breakroom wall (next to the softball sign-up sheet) will not suffice.


Organizations like these, with a clear mandate for simple change, need behavioral queues, habit formation, full organizational engagement (from cleaning staff to hospital executives), two-way feedback loops and a willingness to report back on progress and setbacks with optimism and candor.


They need stories, ambassadors and champions of the desired behavior, and a clear vision of the wonderful world that everyone will see and feel for themselves when the mission is done.


They need evolving, sustained, and emotionally engaging messages of simplicity and clarity. Those messages must resonate so they staff can retain and act upon them even while juggling multiple priorities.


Change communications means understanding your channels and your audiences to help you change behaviors. Changed behaviors add up over thousands of iterations and accumulate to the culture that you envision for your company. It works for any industry, not just health care. Want to know more? Reach out to Soteres Consulting or simply comment below.