When we go to the hospital, we count on doctors and nurses to get us healthy, not make us sick—so why are so many health care professionals skipping out on the single most important factor in preventing healthcare-associated infections?
Recent research shows that many hospital employees simply aren’t cutting it when it comes to washing their hands. Studies show that compliance to hand-washing among healthcare workers averages only 40 percent. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this unhealthy habit can mean higher bills for the entire healthcare system since so many patients pick up infections while in the hospital.
One group, however, thinks it has a surefire way to make sure doctors are washing their hands. Israeli company Hyginex seeks to improve hand-cleansing compliance by asking docs to wear wristbands that will wirelessly alert them when its time to wash their hands.
Ecouterre provides a useful definition of how the wristband alert system works:
The Hyginex system comprises a cloud-based network of smart wristbands and sensor-equipped faucet, soap, and sanitizer dispensers. If you’re a doctor or nurse approaching a new patient, your presence will trigger a nearby sensor. The unit will then beam a wireless signal to the wristband, setting off an LED light and then a light vibration to remind you to wash your hands. Like a gimlet-eyed schoolmarm, the bracelet also monitors the quality of your hand-washing. Spend too little time rubbing your hands together, for instance, or use too little soap, and it’ll dispatch another friendly warning. This real-time feedback, according to Hyginex, helps staff improve their hand-washing compliance.
Since the sensor-equipped dispensers are placed all around the hospital, administrators can keep both a watchful eye and a detailed log of how hand-washing compliance is going.
So could this Big Brother system of hand-washing actually be effective? According to the company, a two-month trial in an Israeli ICU found that compliance rates rose from 25 percent to 44 percent once the system had been introduced. Another study showed that healthcare workers were washing their hands for longer and with more soap.
Hyginex is currently in use in four different Israeli hospitals, with three more on the way. The company also plans to extend its hygiene system to the United States and Europe.