Most of us will agree that regular hand washing runs synonymous with good hygiene. In hospitals, nursing homes and other healthcare settings, hand hygiene is especially crucial because it remains the single most important means of preventing the spread of dangerous pathogens (such as Staph infection). The simple act of touch is the primary mode of infection transfer from one patient to another.
Health workers are required to wash their hands before and after every episode of patient contact. However, despite mandatory hand hygiene educational training, many health care workers fail to wash their hands a high percentage of the time.
Recent data collected by Hygiene Australia, www.hha.org.au, from 605 hospitals, in private and public sectors, estimates that the average hand washing compliance rate for health care works is around 75.7 percent.
Hand hygiene systems defined
With the advent of modern technology, major healthcare industries are considering a variety of new tools to increase hand hygiene compliance among workers. Hand hygiene sensor systems are one of the latest innovations. Designed with infection control in mind, hand hygiene sensor systems (such as HyGreen (www.hygreen.com), BioVigil (www.biovigilsystems.com) and nGage (proventix.com)) are able to detect rates of hand washing among employees in real-time.
These systems, which use wireless, infrared, radio frequency identification and alcohol-sensing technology work by monitoring the movement of healthcare workers in and out a of patient rooms, as well as the physical application of soap or antiseptic.
The types of sensors and the range of their applications continue to change, but the basic idea is this:
• The hygiene sensor detects an employee as he or she enters into a new room.
• The employee is then required to apply soap or gel to his or her hands and wave them underneath a nearby sensor.
• The hygiene device essentially ‘smells’ if an employee has washed – sort of like a breathalyzer.
• If done correctly, a green light will flash on the employee’s ID badge, signalling a pass.
• If an employee forgets to wash, the badge emits a reminder signal.
• Each time an employee washes his or her hands, a wireless signal documents the worker identification number, as well as the time and location and sends it to an internal database.
Do sensors really work?
The makers of these new sensors promise increased hand hygiene compliance and more detailed reports on hand hygiene activity for the purpose of employee feedback, but do these systems really work? While still in the early phases of testing and research, the answer appears to be yes.
According to a recent study conducted by Miami Children’s Hospital, a 274-bed facility inMiami,Florida, hand hygiene systems significantly reduced the spread of urinary tract infections, bloodstream infections and central line infections.
In addition to reducing rates of infection, the hygiene sensor also proved to improve the hospital’s bottom line. Over the course of five quarters, the hospital was able to effectively reduce total costs by over $2 million dollars.
So far, the major drawback of these new systems appears to be cost. The desire to collect data without human impact is both financially and logistically expensive. Regardless of the type of hygiene system used, it will only be as useful as the network surrounding it.
Only time will tell if hand hygiene systems will eventually become a staple procedure in the healthcare industry – and perhaps someday in the food industry as well.
[ital] *Briana Davis wrote this guest post on behalf of National Purity, a US chemical
manufacturing company, www.nationalpurity.com