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The Challenges of Going Touchless

There are some challenges associated with both touchless and manual dispensers, including ensuring that dispensers are functioning, full, and well maintained. The CDC’s hand hygiene guideline cautions, “Dispensers may discourage use by healthcare workers when they become blocked or partially blocked and do not deliver the product when accessed by personnel, and do not deliver the product appropriately onto the hands. In one hospital where a viscous alcohol-based hand rinse was available, only 65 percent of functioning dispensers delivered product onto the caregivers’ hands with one press of the dispenser lever, and 9 percent of dispensers were totally occluded. In addition, the volume delivered was often suboptimal, and the product was sometimes squirted onto the wall instead of the caregiver’s hand.”

The cost of the dispenser, as well as the need for battery replacement, could be an issue at some facilities. Larson et al. note, “Although the cost of touch-free dispensers may be comparable to that of other dispensers, the touch-free devices require batteries for operation. Although the battery life is purported to be two years and a warning light on the dispenser makes it possible for housekeepers to readily detect the need for refill or battery change, the additional cost for battery operation may be a consideration in some settings. Further, we found that the hands-free dispensers were more complicated than the traditional manual units, and additional training of housekeeping staff in appropriate use and maintenance of the touch-free dispensers was needed.”

Touchless and automated technology is being scrutinized by the product evaluation and selection committees to which an increasing number of ICPs are being appointed. Kilfoyle offers a few pointers: “We recognize that users consider the dispenser and its technology to be the most important item in the decision of selecting a hand hygiene product. Yes, you need a reliable dispenser, but ultimately, what you are putting on your hands must be efficacious — actually killing the organisms — and it must be a product people like to use. If it breaks down your skin you’re going to stop using it.”

Kilfoyle cautions, “You shouldn’t just get a hands-free dispenser for the sake of getting a hands-free dispenser. You should ensure the product in the dispenser is something that will meet CDC guidelines and your expectations. Don’t just buy technology for technology’s sake; make sure the product meets your needs.”

When comparing similar dispensers, Kilfoyle says there are several criteria ICPs should look for. “Because you must encourage compliance, you should look for a dispenser that will react appropriately and dispense the product efficiently. Ask yourself, is the dispensing action smooth? Is the product dispensed nicely without stringing, or does it come out in a big glob? Is it misfiring or taking too long to dispense? Any of those experiences, although subtle, may discourage use.”