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GOJO Brings Wi-Fi-based RFID to Hand-washing Dispensers

AeroScout and Ekahau are each offering solutions that operate with GOJO's Purell hand-hygiene solution dispensers to track hand-washing compliance.
By Claire Swedberg
Hand-hygiene compliance has been an ongoing challenge for U.S. hospitals, which must follow guidelines from the CDC and Joint Commission requiring that alcohol-based rubs, traditional soap and water and sterile gloves are used to protect patients as they are treated in hospitals. This is done most commonly by employing staff specifically to monitor hand hygiene activity of their coworkers.

The Ekahau solution includes an Ekahau T301BD tag embedded in a staff badge, while the GOJO SmartLink Series Dispensers come with a built-in Ekahau location beacon. First, the user waves her hands under the dispenser. That action triggers the unit to dispense the sanitizer and at the same time transmit an IR signal that wakes up the Ekahau badge. The badge then transmits its unique ID number to the hospital's Wi-Fi nodes, which then send that data to the Ekahau RTLS server, explains Antti Korhonen, Ekahau president and CEO. In this way, if someone washes her hands with the Purell solution, the badge transmits that event to the back-end software which links the individual's unique ID number with his or her name, and location of the dispenser, and updates the status of the individual as having washed his or her hands. The very fact that the individual placed her hands under the dispenser, which automatically dispenses the solution, provides confirmation that she received the hygiene solution at which point it she would need to rub it into her hands.


Ekahau's Antti Korhonen
If two people wearing badges stood near the dispenser, however, the system could receive transmissions from both badges. "In the future, a more narrow beam can be considered if this becomes a real issue," Korhonen says. Still, he adds, typically if two people stand in front of the dispenser and one washes her hands, in most cases the other will follow suit.

Later, when the individual then walks into a patient room, the system detects that person's arrival with an accuracy of several meters, and searches the staff member's status to determine whether she recently washed her hands. If she has not, the system sends an alert to the badge, causing the badge to vibrate and display a text message on its screen telling the employee to wash her hands. The display can also provide other information to a staff member, such as "thank you for washing your hands" and "Your compliance number [rate] is...," indicating how often the staff member has complied with hand-washing rules.

The Ekahau RTLS control software calculates the location of the tags as well as manages the communication with badges, including the transmitting of messages regarding hand-washing compliance. In addition, Ekahau Vision is another software layer that hospitals can use to run reports and receive information such as compliance statistics.

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