Infrared hygiene monitor could help reduce hospital infections

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A system for monitoring handwashing behaviour in hospital wards is aiming to reduce the rate of resistant infections.

Irisys has begun initial trials of its infrared technology at a London NHS trust, where staff will use the information to improve best practice.

‘If you can increase the level of hand hygiene compliance, then you would reduce infection rates — that’s the basic premise of all of this,’ said Tony Dunn, programme manager at Irisys.

The core infrared sensing technology has been used previously for industrial applications and, for example, in crowd-volume monitoring at football matches.

But the latest application of the technology incorporates ‘complex behavioural algorithms’ to provide handwashing maps focusing on ward entrances and around so-called ‘patient zones’.

‘It’s relatively easy technically to record when someone uses hand gels or soap — somebody goes round with a clipboard once a month,’ Dunn said.

‘But it’s just a spot check, there’s nothing that can provide an objective 24/7 monitoring capability that judges when handwashing should take place.’

The sensors can communicate wirelessly with a central platform or autonomous subsystem and can be accessed through internet protocol (IP) networks, Dunn said.

This information can be used to assess whether healthcare staff are complying with guidelines — for example, the WHO’s My five moments for hand hygiene — that specify handwashing practice in relation to different types of procedure and movement through various zones.

‘You can have management data available and automatically review compliance levels on different shifts and over time and make comparisons from one hospital to another. It will bring reassurance to patients and visitors if this data is made available when they visit hospitals,’ Dunn said.

Irisys is also working on a system that aids independent home living for elderly and infirm individuals by monitoring falls without compromising confidentiality or privacy.