Are We Over-Engineering Hospital Sanitizer Solutions?

The story of Ignaz Semmelweiss who discovered the importance of hand hygiene is a sad one. A pioneer of washing hands between examinations to prevent the spread of infection among patients, his practice only reached widespread accepted years after his death. I'm sure he would be appalled to discover that, more than 150 years later, our hospitals are still suffering from an “unacceptably low compliance with hand hygiene” according to A World Health Organization (WHO) report from 2007.

One recommended step to achieve hand hygiene adherence is the “Measurement of hand hygiene compliance through observational monitoring and feedback of performance to health-care workers”, which is a tricky business - people don’t tend to behave the same when they know they are being monitored.

When the total cost of treating all healthcare-associated infections in the United States is $35-45 Billion, and up to 70% of those infections are preventable, it's no surprise that companies like IntelligentM - a hand hygiene compliance solution - are cropping up.

The IntelligentM system can be set up in 2 steps:

1. The hospital needs to affix Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) SmartTags™ to doorways (using adhesive strips). BLE SmartTags can run for two years on two AA batteries.

2. The hospital needs to affix inexpensive RFID SmartTag labels to hand sanitizer dispensers (using peel and stick labels)

Then, every time a clinician starts their shift, they have to put on a fully charged wristband (SmartBand™) and register it to their employee ID. This wristband contains an RFID reader, BLE receiver and accelerometer.

SmartBand IntelligentMSmartBand IntelligentM

Now, when a clinician enters through a hospital doorway wearing their wristband, the wristband will vibrate if they don’t sanitize their hands within ~10 seconds, and keep vibrating until they do so.

When a clinician sanitizes their hands, the RFID reader on their wristband will register the tag on the hand sanitizer dispenser, and stop vibrating. As an added bonus, if the clinician doesn’t sanitize their hands properly, measured by the accelerometer, the wristband will vibrate three times.
When the wristband is returned after the shift, all the hand hygiene data is uploaded for later analysis.

IntelligentM is competing against more specialized hand sanitizer dispensers that require a lot more installation, and arguably don’t have such cool wristbands or statistics, but I’m not so sure I’m convinced.

Recent studies have shown that simpler remedies like keeping anti-bacterial gel dispensers clean and giving medical personnel their own hand sanitizers would reduce infections, which just makes me think that IntelligentM, despite seeming quite simple and cheap to install, is just overengineered.

What do you think?