Could banning handshakes in Hospitals prevent the spread of disease?

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Hospitals Could One Day Be Handshake-Free Zones To Prevent The Spread Of Disease

June 2, 2017

Shaking your doctor’s hand my soon be done away with, if it is up to Dr. Mark Sklansky. Sklansky, a professor of pediatrics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, would like to see hospitals become handshake-free zones in an effort to stop the spread transmittable diseases.

Sklansky wanted to study if the spread of disease would decrease if he banned handshakes from a hospital after learning that less than half of people do not follow hand hygiene protocols. To study his hypothesis, he introduced handshake-free zones at NICUs at two UCLA medical centers. The results were recently published, and while no definitive answer was found to whether or not the handshake-free zones reduced the spread of disease, the majority of people who participated in the test supported continuing to ban handshakes.

“It is basically infection control,” said Art Caplan, director of the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center, on Boston Public Radio Friday. Caplan sees it as a plausible way to avoid the circulation of nasty bugs to areas where there are a lot of immune problems.

Caplan believes the hurdle of overcoming the social practice of shaking hands may be too much for people. “I don’t think it’s possible to reduce the frequency of handshakes, a lot of patients would be insulted if you didn’t shake their hand,” he said.

Caplan suggests that doctors could begin to transition to the fist bump, which is less likely to spread disease. More importantly, though, Caplan says that people should just start practicing better hand hygiene.

To hear the Director of the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center Art Caplan’s full interview with Boston Public Radio, click on the audio player above.


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