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IntelligentM Wristband Monitors Hand Hygiene, Vibrates to Provide Staff Alerts

The system tracks when and how well staff members wash their hands, using RFID readers incorporated in wristbands, as well as passive tags attached to soap dispensers, medical materials and staff ID badges.
By Claire Swedberg
Apr 01, 2013

Hand-hygiene compliance technology startup IntelligentM has developed a solution that employs radio frequency identification readers built into wristbands to identify tags on soap dispensers, intravenous (IV) solution packaging, surgical drains and ID badges, thereby alerting users if they fail to wash their hands, or need to do so more thoroughly. The system also collects data for business analytics, and shares that information with a hospital's management and staff every week. A medical facility in Sarasota, Fla., has been testing a prototype of the solution since December 2012, the company reports, and several other Florida hospitals are expect to begin using a commercial version as well, during the coming months.

The IntelligentM system's founders sought to provide a hand-hygiene compliance solution that would be easy to install and would not disrupt the hospital's existing infrastructure or IT network, says Seth Freedman, IntelligentM's president and cofounder. RFID readers installed at hand-washing stations typically must be wired, he explains, and are expensive. For that reason, Freedman's company opted to design a system whereby users would wear wristbands incorporating very small readers that would interrogate passive RFID tags installed on sinks, disinfectant dispensers and other objects. The wristband reader can issue real-time alerts to a wearer, and also store the details of each RFID read event. A user can then upload that data to IntelligentM's server when his or her wristband is recharged at the end of the shift. IntelligentM provides the data with some analytics to its clients via a Web-based dashboard, and sends weekly hand-hygiene "report cards" to employees.

The IntelligentM wristband contains an HF RFID reader and motion sensors to measure hand-hygiene compliance, as well as a vibrator to send alerts to the wearer.

Approximately two years ago, the new company began interviewing epidemiologists and infection-control specialists, and thus identified the functions most necessary when it came to hand-hygiene compliance technology. In developing the solution, Freedman says, the firm wanted to be able to provide alerts that would lead to corrective action being taken before a patient was exposed to potentially infectious materials, as well as report data regarding each health-care worker's compliance.

The wristband comes with a built-in high-frequency (HF) 13.56 MHz RFID reader complying with the ISO 14443 standard, as well as a motion sensor and a rechargeable battery. The wristband's urethane exterior is blended with a silver ion material that makes its exterior surface antimicrobial. The wristband is designed to be small enough so as not to be cumbersome to users who may also be wearing and removing rubber gloves.

Typically, an IntelligentM RFID tag would be attached to a nurse's employee ID badge. The company's server software would store that individual's identity, along with the ID number on her badge tag. Upon picking up a wristband from the charger at the beginning of each shift, the nurse would hold the wristband next to her badge tag, and the wristband would store that ID, thereby indicating who was using it. If the nurse forgets to link her own badge ID with the wristband, the reader vibrates three times, reminding her to do so.

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