updated 11/3/2009 1:56:49 PM ET 2009-11-03T18:56:49

Maryland is starting to keep tabs on how often doctors and nurses wash their hands at hospitals.

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Officials said Tuesday they're creating teams of staff members at most of the state's hospitals to monitor their colleagues. The monitors will be given time separate from their daily duties to contribute to a systemwide report on hand washing.

Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown says individuals who are lax on scrubbing up won't be penalized. Rather, the idea is to raise awareness and gather information about which hospital staffs need to do a better job.

Better hand-washing habits should cut down on health care-acquired infections, which increase health care costs around the country by an estimated $30 billion each year.

The Maryland program will use about $100,000 in federal stimulus money.

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