While health care workers know how important hand hygiene is to preventing the estimated 1.7 million health care associated infections (HAIs), compliance with recommend hand washing protocols only occurs about 50% of the time. Hand hygiene initiatives run the gamut in terms of educational outreach, third-person observation strategies, and now increasingly, automated electronic surveillance and reminders.
While automated monitoring systems leveraging radio frequency identification (RFID) technology have been on the market for the past several years, new systems have the potential to maximize integration with other electronic medical systems and further reinforce the benefits of hand hygiene compliance. Most electronic hand hygiene monitoring systems utilize a similar approach in which RFID tags are worn by health care workers that transmit information to various sensors located throughout the facility such as patient rooms, nurses' stations, or even individual soap or hand sanitizer dispensers. These systems can provide reminders when the individual forgets to wash his/her hands (e.g., when entering a patient room) and also provides a more comprehensive view into overall compliance trends across individuals and units. One of the new systems on the market, Proventix's nGage, even has the capability to integrate patient vital signs, other important patient-specific information such as fall risks, and other general info about the weather, sports, and stocks. Since lack of time is one of the common reasons health care workers cite for lack of compliance with appropriate hand washing protocols, this system hopes to create positive efficiencies and incentives to reinforce appropriate behavior.
Providing an alternate approach to further fighting the spread of infections is the recent innovation of a methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) resistant paint-like coating that can be applied to surgical equipment, hospital walls, and other surfaces. While still in the early testing phases, the coating has been shown to be effective in killing 100% of a MRSA applied solution within 20 minutes. The nanotechnology utilizes an enzyme--lysostaphin--that is harmless to humans, but is effective in killing the staph bacteria and does not appear to lead to resistance. Researchers hope the technology could be commercialized for non-health care applications within a year and then secure regulatory approval for health care applications possibly within three years.
For more information on automated hand hygiene compliance systems or the MRSA-resistant coating, check out some of the links below.