Cleaning Up Hospitals
Reported January 2010
RICHMOND, Va. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- The place that's supposed to save you, could actually hurt you … nearly two million people get hospital-acquired infections every year. It's a serious problem, but the number of infections could be cut in half with better hand washing practices by medical staff. Now a new device that helps improve hand washing habits.
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In a hospital, clean hands are a must. Health care worker Crystal Vick scrubs up constantly.
"Probably more than 100 times a day," Vick, of VCU Medical Center in Richmond, Va., told Ivanhoe.
Epidemiologist Michael Edmond, M.D., says surprisingly, many hospital workers still have poor hand washing habits -- a problem that can cause hospital infections resulting in 99,000 patient deaths each year.
"It's primarily because they're busy, they're distracted, they're multitasking and they just forget to do it," Dr Edmond, also of the VCU Medical Center, explained.
To help remind workers to wash up more often, a new sensor, worn as a badge, detects whether employees have properly washed their hands, and literally gives a green light for workers to treat patients.
"A light on the badge will turn green, signifying that the health care worker has washed his or her hands," Dr. Edmond said.
Workers first use an alcohol based hand sanitizer outside patient rooms. Then after entering a room, they place their hands near the badge to get a reading. A wireless sensor above doorways sends a signal to the badge to check for the presence of alcohol. A red light means no alcohol, and a need to wash hands. A green light gives the go ahead.
"We've seen a tremendous increase in hand washing by the nurses who are wearing this badge, and most of them have either perfect or near perfect compliance now with hand washing," Dr. Edmond said.
Doctors say that more hand washing by medical staff can cut the number of hospital-acquired infections in half.
"We can involve the patient in their own care, so that when they see a red badge that they can ask the health care worker to wash their hands," Dr. Edmond said.
It's giving a green light to stop the spread of germs and help save lives.
The badge is also able to transmit data wirelessly to a central database, where doctors can see information about each health care worker's hand washing compliance.
The Human Factors and Ergonomics Society contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.
Click here to Go Inside This Science or contact:
Malorie G. Janis
Public Relations Specialist
Virginia Commonwealth University
Richmond, VA 23298-0426
Human Factors and Ergonomics Society
Santa Monica, CA 90406
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