Healthcare News & Insights

How cloud computing tech can improve hand hygiene

Monitoring whether doctors and nurses are following best practices for hand hygiene can be an inexact science. But new technological innovations are changing the game, making it easier to track just how often staffers are washing or disinfecting their hands. 

ThinkstockPhotos-476703610These developments are coming about due to the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT), a concept where ordinary items are upgraded to include Internet connectivity. This gives them the ability to communicate information in real-time.

A project designed by Microsoft and Gojo, the company that makes Purell hand santizer, measured how often hospital workers were washing their hands using IoT technology. Their experiment was detailed in an article from Time magazine.

How it worked

The experiment took place at John Peter Smith Hospital, located in Fort Worth, TX.

As part of the project, the system installed at the hospital had two components:

  1. a ceiling-mounted sensor to monitor the flow of foot traffic, and
  2. soap and hand-sanitizer dispensers with sensors to track when they were used.

These two devices sent their data to Microsoft Azure, a cloud-based computing service, via the Internet. The software stored and analyzed the information, as described in a video about the project. This gave researchers a clear picture of how many times people washed their hands upon entering and exiting the area.

Researchers performed the project in phases, according to the Time article. During the first phase, the devices collected baseline data to see how often workers washed their hands without knowing they were being monitored. At this time, the hand-washing compliance rate was only 16.5%.

In the next phase, researchers made everyone in the hospital aware they were conducting a study about hand washing, even patients and visitors. The result: Compliance rates nearly doubled, climbing to 31.7%

Researchers stopped reminding people about the project during its last phase to see whether they got the message about remembering to wash or disinfect their hands. While compliance was lower than it was during the second part of the project, hand-washing rates were still at 25.8% – much higher than they were initially.

Effective tracking

Overall, the cloud-connected system was able to detect 90,000 instances where people should’ve washed their hands. It’d be extremely difficult for a facility to make similar observations without an automated system in place.

And because the data was stored in the cloud, researchers were able to easily access the information using an Internet browser on a computer or mobile device.

Similar technology could boost your hospital’s hand-washing rates. While Microsoft and Gojo haven’t announced plans to take this particular system public just yet, innovations like these are happening faster due to growing advancements in IoT technology and cloud computing.

With that in mind, you may want to get together with IT and find out whether your hospital’s existing network infrastructure is able to accommodate more Internet-connected devices and tools down the line.

If not, you can start brainstorming about what you’d need to do to make that possible. This’ll help you ensure your facility’s a step ahead of new technological developments, which means you can take advantage of them more easily in the future.

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