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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
Hospitals that already use GOJO's Purell dispensers would need to add the IR beacon module to operate with the Ekahau system.

If the hospital requires greater granularity, such as when a doctor approaches a bed in a large room, smaller read zones can be created with Ekahau's battery-powered IR beacons that—in this case—would transmit a unique identifier repeatedly at preset intervals. The badge would capture the unique identifier of that IR beacon and transmit that identifier along with its own ID number, enabling the software to determine the location of the individual within a meter or less.

AeroScout has developed its own AeroScout Hand Hygiene Compliance Monitoring Solution to add onto its existing MobileView RTLS solution. Like the Ekahau system, it provides its hospitals with details of when staff members wash their hands. In this case, staff members wearing AeroScout's Wi-Fi-based T2 tags would first approach the dispenser and place their hands under the dispenser. The dispenser would have a built in AeroScout 125 KHz RF exciter that transmits a unique ID number at regular intervals, explains Gabi Daniely, VP of marketing and product strategy. Its transmission wakes up the T2 tag being worn by the employee, which captures the ID number of the dispenser exciter and then transmits its own unique ID number as well as that of the exciter to the Wi-Fi nodes installed in the proximity. The MobileView software then receives that data and interprets the individual's identity based on the badge number, as well as the location based on the exciter ID, and links that data with the time and date. Daniely says that by setting the exciter transmission range to the vicinity immediately in front of the Purell dispenser, AeroScout has reduced the risk of reading any RFID tags worn by other people standing nearby.

AeroScout's Gabi Daniely
When the individual then enters a patient room, the software seeks the history of the staff member's hand-washing activity, determines whether the hands were recently washed, and then stores the hand-hygiene compliance or lack of compliance in the software record, which can be provided to management. In this case of the AeroScout solution, the software is not designed to send alerts directly to badges worn by staff members when they enter a patient room.

"The key thing infection control managers are looking for is to watch trends, to see if the technology has improved compliance," says Daniely. The system is capable of sending alerts, he says, for example via e-mail or text message to management, but, says Steffan Haithcox, AeroScout's senior director of marketing, "that's not what hospitals want; they want the educational piece," or reports listing compliance rates. He points out that hospitals traditionally employ live individuals to track hand-washing compliance, and they are not instructed to alert staff when they don't wash their hands, but rather simply maintain a record.

Both technology vendors indicate that the demand for better hand-washing compliance solutions is high among health-care companies. AeroScout will beta-test its solution in April (there are no pilots underway yet), says Daniely, and then commercially release following those tests, but health-care companies have already been contacting AeroScout to learn more about the solution. "This is a very timely topic in health-care right now," says Haithcox. With the use of the technology, Daniely speculates, users "will see the compliance rates go up and the infection rates go down. Those are going to be nice results to be contributing to."

Ekahau is piloting the system now, says Korhonen, at unnamed hospitals, and the company's version of the technology will be available in March. For hospitals, he says, the system should increase hand washing compliance rate of its staff.

Ekahau, AeroScout and GOJO are not the first companies to offer RFID-enabled hand-hygiene systems. In 2007, Resurgent Health and Medical introduced an RFID-based option for its automated hand-washing systems (see RFID Debuts as Hand-Washing Compliance Officer). Last year, Princeton Baptist Medical Center, in Birmingham, Al., being using Proventix's hand-hygiene monitoring solution, which includes battery-powered RFID tags and readers developed by Synapse Technologies (see RFID-based Hand-Hygiene System Prevents Health-care Acquired Infections).

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