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Big Brother or Big Liability?

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Concern about hospital infection rates is driving many facilities to implement technology solutions, some of which monitor hand washing activities closely.

In the May issue of Food Management, we ran a short feature on the new generation of automated employee hand washing stations that increasingly are appearing in hospitals (Getting a Handle on Handwashing). Some simply walk employees through the correct steps to do the job right, others verify and even video-record handwashing activities.

 
While our focus was on the impact such technologies could have in hospital foodservice departments—both in kitchens and in customer contact situations like room service programs—concern about the spread of infection has become a high-level issue for all departments in hospitals. 
 
A May 29 article in the The New York Times, "With Money at Risk, Hospitals Push Staff to Wash Hands," describes the impact infection rates could have on reimbursement under new Medicaid Rules (see FM's Healthcare Market Report in February). 
 
At the same time, aggressive efforts to monitor hand hygiene can raise privacy and other issues, especially in unionized environments. And surveys show that hospital staff at all levels, from administrators and physicians on down can all be fingered with some incidence of lax hand hygiene. 
 
Which raises the question: When does Big Liability Trump Big Brother? In our desire to make foodservice and healthcare environments safer, are there "red lines" we shouldn't cross in terms of monitoring employee activities?
 
What do you think?
 

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John Lawn

John Lawn has served as editor-in-chief /associate publisher of Food Management since 1996. Prior to that, he was founding and chief editor of The Foodservice Distributor ...
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