Stethoscope hygiene: Using cultures and real-time feedback with bioluminescence-based adenosine triphosphate technology to change behavior.

Holleck, J.L., Campbell, S., Alrawili, H., Frank, C., Merchant, N., Rodwin, B., … & Dembry, L., (2020). Stethoscope hygiene: Using cultures and real-time feedback with bioluminescence-based adenosine triphosphate technology to change behavior. American Journal of Infection Control, 48, 380-385.

Background: Stethoscope hygiene is rarely done despite guideline recommendations. We wanted to determine whether demonstrating what is growing on the stethoscopes of providers via culture or bioluminescence technology alters perceptions and improves compliance.


Methods: Providers were given the opportunity to (1) culture their stethoscopes before and after disinfection with alcohol pads, alcohol-based hand rub, or hydrogen peroxide disinfectant wipes and (2) swab stethoscopes for bioluminescence-based adenosine triphosphate testing before and after disinfection. Outcomes were observed for hand and stethoscope hygiene rates and before and after intervention survey responses. The bacteria that were isolated, colony-forming units (CFU), and bioluminescence scores were tracked. 

Results: A total of 1,245 observed hand hygiene opportunities showed that compliance improved from 72.5%-82.3% (P < .001). In addition, 590 observed patient-provider encounters revealed no significant change in stethoscope hygiene rates of 10% initially and 5% afterward (P = .08), although self-reported rates trended from 56%- 67% post-intervention (P = .06). Perceptions regarding stethoscope hygiene importance improved (8.5/10 to 9.3/10; P = .04). Disinfection with alcohol pads, alcohol-based hand rub, and hydrogen peroxide disinfectant wipes were equivalent in CFU reduction (P = .21). 

Conclusions: Showing providers what is growing on their stethoscopes via cultures and bioluminescence technology before and after disinfection improved “buy in” regarding stethoscope hygiene importance. Both methods were rated as having an equal impact, however, objective observations failed to show improvement. 

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