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RFID Helps Hospitals Clean Up Their Act

Hand-hygiene monitoring solutions reduce infection rates and related costs.
By Amy Lipton
Sep 28, 2014

For more than a decade, the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other agencies have promoted awareness of the critical role hand hygiene plays in preventing the spread of bacteria that cause health-care-associated infections (HAIs) in hundreds of thousands of hospital patients annually. For 2014, as part of its annual "Save Lives: Clean Your Hands" campaign, WHO is emphasizing the intensifying threat of multidrug-resistant organisms, such as E. coli, pneumonia and sepsis, as well as the relationship between hand sanitation and the transmission of these germs.

Yet while most hospitals are likely aware of that relationship, they still struggle to enforce hand-hygiene compliance. Medical facilities typically have hand-sanitation stations outside and/or within patients' rooms, but doctors, nurses, technicians and others either fail to use them when entering and leaving a patient's room, or do not do a thorough job of washing their hands. Some hospitals assign staff members to unobtrusively monitor and manually record health-care workers' hand-hygiene behavior, but the results tend to be unreliable and any improvements short-lived.

More reliable and effective are radio frequency identification solutions that automatically monitor health-care workers' hand-hygiene behavior and use the collected data to pinpoint problem areas or individuals, to help the hospital effect change. Alabama's Princeton Baptist Medical Center, for example, deployed Proventix's nGage hand-washing compliance system in February 2010. The system enables users to view messages or news items on screens mounted above each soap or alcohol dispenser. During a 44-month follow-up study, the hospital reported a 217 percent improvement in hand-hygiene compliance and a 20 percent reduction in HAIs, resulting in a reduced length of stay of nearly 1,200 days and a cost savings of more than $1.5 million.

Similarly, this year, England's New Cross Hospital introduced a hand-hygiene solution from CenTrak that enables personnel to view their compliance rates at any time, via touchscreens installed throughout its premises. As a result, the hospital reports, compliance rates have increased.

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