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Handwash Monitoring System Aims to Boost Compliance, Prevent Infections

Posted by Chris Giallanza on May 22, 2012 1:20:00 PM

Groundbreaking new technology that seeks to boost handwashing compliance to help prevent the nearly 2 million hospital-acquired infections that occur annually in the United States will be previewed in North America June 4 – 6 at APIC 2012 in San Antonio. Nearly 100,000 Americans die annually from these infections, according to the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

The system, currently being trialed in the United Kingdom, uses non-intrusive thermal sensors deployed at key points throughout a health care facility to detect movement of people and determine an accurate count of handwash opportunities. It compares those opportunities with actual handwash occurrences and also monitors when sanitizing gel hand-rub or soap dispensers are used. Combined with communication and reporting systems, the resulting solution is an affordable, non-intrusive technology that could cut infection rates – and save lives.

Last year, the U.K. National Institute for Health Research awarded a two-year contract to Irisys to develop sensors to improve handwash compliance rates.

“The spread of infection in hospitals occurs mostly on hands either directly or via an environmental surface,” says Dr. Peter Wilson, consultant microbiologist, University College London Hospitals. “Hand hygiene education can improve compliance, but the effect is temporary. Automated hand hygiene compliance monitoring has the potential to result in a more long-lasting elevation of hand hygiene.”

The World Health Organization asserts proper hand washing is critical to the prevention of hospital-acquired infections, which, in the United States, account for $28 billion to $33 billion in preventable healthcare expenditures annually, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“In health care settings, hand hygiene is used to eliminate transient microorganisms that may be picked up through contact with patients, their environment or contaminated equipment; these may then be transferred to patients,” says Martina Cummins, consultant nurse, infection prevention and control and deputy director of infection prevention control for Barts and the London NHS Trust. “Hand hygiene is at the center of infection prevention and control policies and when carried out correctly, is the most effective way to prevent the spread of infections. All health care workers are educated in the principles of infection prevention with a focused approach used to ensure their hand hygiene technique is undertaken effectively. Over the past 60 years, hand hygiene has maintained its importance in preventing infection, and new technologies have been introduced to make it convenient and improve compliance.”

“Our thermal system is groundbreaking in that it monitors personnel behavior 24/7 without violating privacy. At Irisys, we don’t believe it will ever be widely acceptable to put video cameras in patient areas, and our system does not need them,” says Tony Dunn, divisional director, health care for Irisys. “Health care facilities around the world will no longer be forced to dedicate valuable human resources to manual monitoring techniques. The system never tires, never rests and is completely unaffected by lighting. The results of our U.K. trials could forever change how health care professionals ensure hand hygiene compliance.”

About Irisys

Irisys is a UK innovator in award-winning technologies that make a significant, measurable impact on business efficiency and improve the quality of people’s lives.  Irisys is a high technology manufacturing success story, exporting British technology all over the world, and regularly featuring in the Sunday Times Tech Track list of fastest growing technology companies.  The company invests double digit percentage of revenues in R&D and holds over 70 patents. One in six employees has a PhD. For more information, visit