Cold and flu season is here, and the importance of hand hygiene is rising in our attention. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) continues to recommend hand washing as the best way to prevent the spread of germs, as well as the use of a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol when soap and water are not available. With most of us familiar with such recommendations, you may be asking yourself, if such recommendations are not ameliorating the issue at the moment, then is there anything new in hand hygiene that may help? The answer is “yes.” Let’s look at three areas: market trends, product innovation and published research.
From a market trend perspective, the Internet of Things (IoT) and wireless technology continue to evolve with smart dispensers that can “talk” to a centralized command post to report on consumer usage. Smart technology allows facility managers to see restroom visitor numbers in real time and check refill levels remotely. They can see trends and improve planning. Furthermore, smart restrooms can make it possible to move from a static cleaning schedule to a schedule that allows a facility’s management team to only clean as necessary.
When real-time usage data is captured and analyzed, there is not only a reduction in labor time to monitor and fill the dispensers, but consumable costs can be reduced as well. Since the dispensers signal when they are nearly empty, this mechanism eliminates the guesswork a person may need to conduct to know when they should refill a dispenser, and also helps prevent unnecessary waste made by throwing away a barely used product. Smart restrooms also support a positive consumer experience by helping to eliminate a key consumer complaint: the soap or towels have run out.
In terms of product innovation, there is a continued move towards removing harsh ingredients that can cause skin irritation from soaps and sanitizers. Since the 2016 FDA ruling to remove triclosan from consumer soap products, most triclosan-based formulas have disappeared from the market entirely (with the exception of healthcare-specific formulations, where triclosan is still allowed). In the place of harsher ingredients come new skin care formulas that are both hypoallergenic and more effective at removing dirt and germs.
On the dispenser side, new features abound. Touch-free soap refills now come with their own power source that eliminates the need to change-out traditional batteries in the dispenser. Top-fill, high capacity counter-mount fixtures are available that do away with crawling underneath the counter to replace the soap cartridge. High capacity towel dispensers can provide 250% more towels between refills. And fully enclosed, no-touch tissue dispensers help prevent cross-contamination.
Finally, from a research perspective, a recent study published in Pediatrics further supports the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers as an important component of hand hygiene programs. The study examined the effectiveness of educational and hand hygiene programs that include the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers in a child care center setting. The study group using a hand sanitizer in addition to normal handwashing experienced approximately a 30% reduction in antibiotic prescriptions, approximately a 23% reduction in respiratory infections and a lower number of days absent due to respiratory infections.
One parting thought. A recent survey by a large global hygiene and health company supports with data what most of us already know intuitively: washing your hands can make others healthier and more able to interact safely in their environment. Respondents also indicated that knowing that other people wash their hands properly would have a positive impact on their state of mind. In a world where we need more kindness and support for each other, perhaps the simple step of washing your hands can be a small, yet significant, step on that path.
By Tanya Hamilton, Meld Marketing, LLC