“Wash your hands.”

This common refrain – and vital strategy – is taught since toddlerhood and remains one of the most important actions that can be taken, at any age, to stop the spread of disease. Hand hygiene is also a top priority at Mass General – a simple and effective way to stop the spread of pathogens in the hospital, and is essential to keeping staff, patients and visitors safe.

In addition to traditional hand washing with soap and water, the MGH also relies on routine use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer from dispensers in all patient rooms and other clinical areas that allow for faster and easier cleaning of hands.

As with any key quality and safety measure, tracking data is critical. Last year, as part of its commitment to promoting hand hygiene, MGH developed a simple app named Hy5 that allows all staff members to record hand hygiene observations. Hy5 – a collaboration between the MGH/MGPO Lawrence Center for Quality and Safety, the Laboratory of Computer Science, the Infection Control Unit, and Patient Care Services – is accessible on Voaltes, at hy5.partners.org or from a personal device by downloading the Moxi app.

“These data have already greatly helped us improve our compliance rates and address performance issues in real time,” says David Hooper, MD, chief of the MGH Infection Control Unit. “Though we always had some idea of how we were doing, this level of data is something we’ve never had before. It has immensely helped us increase our observation numbers and gives us a much more expansive picture of our compliance.”

Three people at a table with cookies and information about the program
Tayla Hough and Jeanne Henson, of the Center for Quality and Safety, share cookies and Hy5 information with staff.

Since its launch in April 2022, more than 48,000 observations have been submitted by more than 1,000 staff members. Observations – which never identify individuals being observed by name – aid in the MGH’s collective goal of achieving more than 90% compliance before and after patient contact. Thanks to the data collected through Hy5, in the most recent quarter, Q1 ’23, before-contact rates have increased by 5%, and after-contact rates by 2%, compared to the first quarter of data collection, Q2 ’22 – both surpassing the 90% goal.

All employees, clinical or non-clinical, are welcome – and encouraged – to submit observations. Having representation from all role groups helps to improve the breadth of the data and to identify potential areas for improvement on which to focus further efforts.

“Our Patient Care Services leadership and nursing staff have embraced the app this past year and nurses have become a key party in submitting observations,” says Colleen Snydeman, PhD, RN, executive director, Patient Care Services Office of Quality, Safety and Practice. “Hand hygiene is everyone’s responsibility, and we encourage all role groups to participate. We truly appreciate the continued contributions of staff from across all units in this important effort.”