So what about hand-washing, recognized for so long to be fundamental for the prevention of hospital-acquired infections? Isn’t that good enough?
No, not when we know that doctors and nurses (and patients) practice appropriate hand hygiene only 40 percent of the time, despite years of concerted efforts to increase that number. And not when alcohol-based hand rubs, which have replaced hand-washing in many hospital settings, do not work against important germs, such as Clostridium difficile (a common cause of diarrhea in the hospital setting).
Given the handshake’s importance, we suspect that any effort to restrict the handshake from hospitals and doctors’ offices should consider promoting practical and infection-conscious alternatives to take the place of the handshake, such as the bow, the Namaste gesture, or placement of the hand over the heart.
The success of any such handshake ban would probably depend upon widespread educational programs and appropriate signage, such as: “Handshake-free zone: To protect your health and the health of those around you, please refrain from shaking hands while on these premises.”