It is estimated that 1.7 million hospital patients in the U.S. catch a Healthcare-Associated Infection (HAI) each year, resulting in 99,000 deaths.* HAIs are the fifth-leading cause of death in U.S. acute-care hospitals and cost the health system up to $33 billion. HAIs are an incredibly vexing problem for hospitals yet despite the large amount of money invested into this issue, the numbers continue to rise. Infection Control Epidemiologist Colin Furness of Infonaut explains that approaching the problem with improved measurement to figure out the cause could assist in devising better methods of preventing and controlling infections.

For more details about what is discussed in this post, please watch the full interview, featuring Colin Furness on TVO’s The Agenda with Steve Paikin here:

Infection Control Solution for Hospitals

Threats posed by the pathogens that can cause infections affect not only patient and staff safety, but also a hospital’s reputation and financial health.

Infonaut, a Dapasoft partner company, has developed Hospital Watch Live (HWL) as the world’s first pervasive, automated hand hygiene and infection surveillance solution to prevent and control infections in acute care settings. The HWL platform uses ultra-accurate Real-Time Location System (RTLS) and Microsoft enterprise software that starts with measuring hand hygiene. Ultrasound transponders are worn by patients, staff, equipment, and are connected to soap and hand sanitizer dispensers.  Movements and contact, including hand hygiene activities, are time-stamped and transmitted to a nearby receiver, and are then geo-spatially analyzed.

This approach allows hospitals to move beyond hand hygiene with an unprecedented ability to understand and calculate behaviors that lead to pathways of disease. By directly measuring those behaviors that are known to spread infections, Infonaut can help hospitals introduce targeted quality improvement initiatives, while constantly gathering new evidence on the most effective infection control practices. HWL provides acute-care hospitals with the tools and knowledge to go beyond hand hygiene compliance and reach a true understanding of how to prevent and control infections.

The Path to Prevention

Despite the infection control protocols and interventions in place at many hospitals, Infonaut discovered that doctors are the most common offenders of protocols with nurses and allied health staff trailing not so far behind. Considering the amount of hand washing signage and promotion in hospitals, the practice is not engrained in visitors and patients either. After a test study, it was discovered that an average of 29.7% of patients wash their hands after using the restroom, and 39% after eating a meal. These numbers are shockingly low seeing as hand sanitizer dispensers were within the patients’ vicinity.

With hand washing being a simple and long-term solution to decreasing the numbers of HAIs, how can we instill this behavior in hospitals and long-term care facilities?  Designing an encouraging environment for hand cleaning can significantly improve the likelihood the behavior will be imitated by all individuals. Recommendations such as, multilingual signage, avoiding hand shaking, and introducing stricter protocols are just a few solutions hospitals can introduce to increase hand-washing rates and reduce instances of HAIs.

Possibly the best method to reduce HAIs is to pair technology with the above suggested behavior modifications. Infonaut discovered that this approach could be ground breaking to a healthcare organization wishing to increase hand-washing on-site. With a disease surveillance solution such as HWL, combined with a traditional hand washing program, hospitals can move beyond simple compliance and towards a real understanding of human behavior and health.