High-Tech Solutions For Hospital Worker Hand Sanitation Issues
June 29, 2013

High-Tech Solutions For Hospital Worker Hand Sanitation Issues

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Hospitals are turning to technology in order to help make sure that doctors, nurses and other staff members remember to keep their hands clean while on the job, various media outlets reported on Friday.

According to Jim Salter with the Associated Press (AP), the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that one out of every 20 patients acquires an infection while in the hospital each year -- and that poor hand sanitation plays a role.

Now, medical centers are using various tracking systems, including buzzers, beepers and lights, to remind workers to keep their hands clean and to keep track of those who fail to do so, Salter said. CBS News added that many experts believe that doctors and hospital workers properly wash their hands no more than 50 percent of the time. One St. Louis, Missouri-area hospital is looking to change that, however.

That hospital, SSM St. Mary's Health Center in the suburb of Richmond Heights, has served as a test site for a new high-tech sanitation tracking system developed by Michigan firm Biovigil Inc., Salter said. The tracking system involved a flashing light on a badge, which turns green when a person's hands are clean and red when they are not.

"It also tracks each hand-cleaning opportunity -- the successes and the failures," the AP writer said. "The failures have been few at the two units of St. Mary's where the system is being tested... One unit had 97 percent hand hygiene success... [while] the other had 99 percent success."

Similar systems are being developed by other companies and tested in other hospitals, according to CBS News and the AP. A video monitoring method developed by New York-based firm Arrowsight is currently being used at intensive care units (ICUs) at North Shore University Hospital and the University of California San Francisco Medical Center.

GOJO Industries, the Ohio-based makers of Purell hand sanitizer, has come up with SmartLink -- a wireless electronic compliance system that can detect when soap and/or hand sanitizer is being used. Their system provides hospitals with information on areas that have high and low compliance rates. GOJO officials told reporters that several hospitals nationwide are testing SmartLink, but did not reveal how many or which ones.

"HyGreen Inc.'s Hand Hygiene Reminder System was developed by two University of Florida doctors. The Gainesville, Fla., company now features two systems used in seven hospitals, including Veterans Administration hospitals" in Illinois, Delaware, and Pennsylvania, Salter said.

"One is similar to Biovigil's green badge method," he added. "In HyGreen's, a wall-mounted hand wash sensor detects alcohol on the hands. The badge includes an active reminding system. Unclean hands create a warning buzz. If the buzz sounds three times, the worker is noted for noncompliance."

Elena Fraser, a spokeswoman with the Florida company, said that they developed a second system because many health care centers are discontinuing use of alcohol-based sanitizers. In this version of the device, a touch of the sanitizer dispenser allows the individual to begin interacting with patients. However, if he or she shows up at a patient's bed without cleaning his or her hands, the warning buzzes begin.

"We've known for over 150 years that good hand hygiene prevents patients from getting infections. However, it's been a very chronic and difficult problem to get adherence levels up as high as we'd like them to be," CDC epidemiologist Dr. John Jernigan told the AP.

"For a health care worker, keeping their hands clean is the single most important thing they can do to protect their patients," he added, telling Salter that these high-tech devices can only help the sanitation problem.