Researchers at the University of Iowa have created a wireless system that automatically tracks the use of hand hygiene dispensers when healthcare workers enter and exit the rooms of patients.
The ZigBee wireless system was developed by a team of computer scientists led by Dr Ted Herman, professor of computer science in the University's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
Each use of a dispenser station is automatically reported by the user's badge, which logs the time as well as length of use, date and dispenser ID number. Data from the badges can then be automatically off-loaded to small beacons inside patient's rooms and at other designated locations without the need for any manual data entry.
'A novel part of our method is how data is recorded,' Herman said. 'It is recorded and processed in the badges rather than relying on a network.'
In a trial of the system, workers wore small, pager-sized badges to monitor their use of the hand hygiene dispenser stations prior to entering and exiting patient's rooms.
The automated monitoring system correctly identified more than 90 per cent of subjects when they remained in the room for 30 seconds. When the time in the room increased to 60 seconds, the system correctly identified 100 per cent of them.
'This new technology is a practical method to determine hygiene compliance that does not rely on the installation of expensive infrastructure and can be installed and removed within minutes,' said Dr Philip Polgreen, assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Iowa's Roy J and Lucille A Carver College of Medicine.
The development of the system was funded by an award to Herman from the National Science Foundation. Additional funding was provided by an NIH career grant awarded to Polgreen, as well as a grant from the University of Iowa.