11/14/2012 11:40 pm ET Updated Nov 15, 2012

Most Patients Are Reluctant To Ask Doctors To Wash Their Hands, Study Finds

By Katherine Harmon
(Click here for the original article and podcast)

More than 1.7 million Americans acquire health care-associated infections each year while in the hospital or doctor’s office, some of them antibiotic resistant. Many such infections could be prevented with simple hygiene measures, such as doctors and nurses frequently washing their hands.

Now a survey finds that many patients are reluctant to ask medical folks to lather up. 

Researchers surveyed 200 hospital patients who were at risk for—or had previously had—a hospital-acquired infection. Nearly 100 percent of them agreed that health care workers should wash their hands before and after seeing a patient. But just 54 percent of them said they would feel comfortable asking doctors to wash their hands—and just 64 percent would feel comfortable asking a nurse. And when faced with the situation in real life, just 14 percent said that they had actually asked a health care worker to wash their hands.

The findings are in the journal Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology. [Andrew Ottum et al., Do Patients Feel Comfortable Asking Health Care Workers to Wash Their Hands?]

So don't be shy about asking your docs to wash up. The good ones may even thank you.