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Summerville Medical Center Boosts Hand-Hygiene Compliance

The HCA Healthcare facility has added hygiene-monitoring functionality to its RTLS solution from GE Healthcare, to track when and how often staff members wash their hands.
By Claire Swedberg
Apr 18, 2013

HCA Healthcare's Summerville Medical Center has boosted its hand-hygiene compliance by 25 percent, after installing a new radio frequency identification-based solution that identifies when and how often personnel wash their hands. The hospital measured compliance rates when the technology was installed in February 2013, and has since charted an increase in the rate at which staff members wash their hands before and after visiting patients. Previously, the facility had manually tracked compliance, obtaining 70 or 80 data points (each representing a single hand-washing event) per month—but with the RFID technology in place, it now acquires 8,000 data points daily.

The hospital expanded its existing real-time location system (RTLS) solution for tracking assets and patients. The system uses the same active RFID and infrared (IR) tags, along with passive low-frequency (LF) 125 kHz tags and readers, to monitor hand-hygiene compliance at the hospital. The existing hybrid location-based technology and the hand-hygiene solution were developed and provided by GE Healthcare, and were fully implemented in February.

Louis Caputo, Summerville Medical Center's CEO, tries one of the hospital's RFID-enabled hand-sanitizer stations.

The hospital, part of HCA's Trident Heath System in South Carolina, was already employing GE Healthcare's AgileTrac RTLS technology to manage assets and workers, by identifying the locations of tags and badges throughout the facility (see Trident Health System Boosts Patient Throughput, Asset Utilization). The 94-bed hospital implemented the technology in 2008. Each RF Code tag has a built-in IR sensor that receives an emitter's infrared signal and then transmits a high-frequency (HF) 433 MHz active RFID signal encoded with its own unique ID number, along with that of the IR emitter. RFID interrogators installed throughout the building can receive the tag's signal and forward that data to the AgileTrac software residing on the hospital's back-end server, via a cabled connection.

During the past year or so, HCA had been in dialog with GE Healthcare regarding other ways in which the RTLS technology could be utilized at its three Trident Heath System hospitals. "We had tremendous success with it," says Louis Caputo, Summerville Medical Center's CEO. For example, he reports, the asset-tracking system enabled the hospitals to reduce inventory levels by knowing where assets were located, and to decrease the amount of nurse labor required to seek out assets. Based on those successes, he says, "Folks at GE and HCA were looking at health-care reform and had brainstorming sessions" intended to identify additional solutions using the technology.

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