Company creates badges to track hospital staff hand-washing

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A St. Paul company has developed a device that assures doctors, nurses and other health care providers are washing their hands to prevent the spread of infections.

North Memorial Hospital in Robbinsdale has been testing Ecolab’s hand sanitation monitoring system, Minnesota Public Radio reported.

The system is similar to the beeping seatbelt reminder featured in cars, said Kathleen Burzycki, a senior marketing manager for Ecolab.

About 100 caregivers in the oncology ward wear badges that are electronically linked to hand sanitizer dispensers and beacons in patient rooms. Badges remain green for five minutes after hand-washing and will beep and turn red if a caregiver doesn’t cleanse their hands.

“Hand hygiene is the easiest way to prevent infections and so it’s really a no-brainer that you focus on hand hygiene as a health care organization,” said Stephanie Swanson, manager of infection prevention at North Memorial.

Infections can increase hospitalization costs, increase patient suffering and potentially reduce the reimbursements that hospitals receive from the government, she said.

Staff have overall been washing their hands 95 percent of the time, Swanson said. The system also tracks individual performances. Some nurses may have to sanitize their hands hundreds of times during a shift, she said.

“We can know just how nurses are doing or how physicians are doing,” Swanson said. “So, you really get an opportunity to understand where you could improve.”

Ecolab’s system is currently deployed in some Florida and Colorado hospitals. It’s also being tested in Ohio, New Mexico, Michigan, Virginia and West Virginia.

The company is also exploring other potential markets, such as long-term care or even restaurants, Burzycki said.

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Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, http://www.mprnews.org

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