Wearable, badge-based hand-washing monitoring system improves hospital staff compliance

Courtesy of Hill-Rom

Hill-Rom ($HRC) hopes that hospitals will go high-tech to solve a very low-tech problem--the lack of routine hand-washing by healthcare employees. The estimated compliance of healthcare staff with hand hygiene regulations is less than 50%. But effective hand cleansing is one of the simplest and most effective methods to prevent hospital-associated infections, which can be increasingly difficult to cure as antibacterial resistance continues to creep forth.

The company has released data showing that over 20 million instances of hand-washing, its wearable, continuous, automatic hand hygiene tracking solution more than tripled healthcare staff compliance with hand hygiene regulations.

In addition, the system enables hospitals to comply with a request from nonprofit, healthcare industry group Joint Commission for them to provide enterprise level reporting on hand hygiene including the number of visits to hand hygiene stations, missed hand-washing opportunities as well as rates of visits and missed opportunities.

"It's all about forming a habit. Once caregivers get used to the system, they're eager and excited to see their results posted at the end of each week. We showcase our highest individual compliance performer on a monthly basis," Dr. Javier Reyes Mar, Head of Epidemiologic Surveillance at Medica Sur Hospital in Mexico City, Mexico, a site included in the analysis, said in a statement.

"Our caregivers strive to continuously improve and do better. They're pleased with the ease of use of the system and it is encouraging to them that they are positively impacting the lives of the patients through this solution," he added.

Hill-Rom Hand Hygiene Compliance Solution is integrated into a badge that offers other aspects of real-time employee location for healthcare providers. A lightweight badge is worn by each member of the healthcare staff.

The system not only records data about hand hygiene and enables analysis at the individual, group or institutional level--but it offers real-time, proactive alerts to staff of potential, missed opportunities to cleanse their hands.

Hill-Rom's hygiene stations are created using existing hand sanitizer and soap dispensers. But hand sanitizer has been the subject of recent controversy. In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explicitly recommends hand washing with soap and water, rather than the use of hand sanitizer.

The agency notes that if a hand sanitizer is used, it must have an alcohol concentration of 60% to 95% to be effective at killing germs. It cautions that non-alcohol based hand sanitizer does not work equally well to kill all classes of germs and that the sanitizer itself may be contributing to the development of antibacterial resistance.

Even alcohol-based hand sanitizers are often used incorrectly, because staff don't use enough of it or they wipe it off before it has dried. In addition, soap and water has been shown to be more effective in killing certain kinds of germs such as Cryptosporidium, norovirus, and Clostridium difficile.

The World Health Organization estimates that about one in 15 hospital patients has at least one healthcare-acquired infection, with HAIs costing an estimated 75,000 lives and at least $25 billion in the United States alone.

"Hand washing is simple, but also simple to forget in a busy health care environment," Alton Shader, SVP and president of North America at Hill-Rom, said in a statement. "This new data shows that our system is extremely effective at helping hospital teams move the needle on compliance--the first step toward decreasing hospital-acquired infections."

- here is the release