A new electronic hand hygiene system reinforces that handwashing is a priority for everyone at Middlesex Hospital – from the doctors and nurses to visiting families and friends.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, washing your hands is the most important means of preventing the spread of infection. It allows you to get rid of any germs you pick up from other people, surfaces, or animals, and it can decrease your chances of getting sick. Washing your hands also protects Hospital patients.
Over the past several months, all three of the Hospital’s Emergency Departments and its Critical Care Unit began using a system by Industries, which anonymously collects information electronically about hand-washing habits around the clock. Prior to this, Hospital staff independently observed these habits, limiting the amount and quality of data.
The new system places sensors in hand sanitizer and soap dispensers located inside and outside patient rooms. These sensors record how many times the dispensers are used. A second heat sensor is located in the ceiling at each room’s entrance, and these sensors track how many people enter and leave, allowing the Hospital to determine how many opportunities people had to wash their hands. Together, the data can be used to calculate performance rates that can be displayed in real time as a way to motivate staff and hold everyone accountable to each other.
Signs throughout the Hospital remind everyone to wash their hands when entering or leaving patient rooms, and improvement teams use the data to identify troublesome patterns and make any changes.
Washing your hands may seem like a simple task, but Dr. Rahul Anand, hospital epidemiologist at Middlesex, says it is often part of a subconscious routine, and it takes effort to get people to change their habits.
Middlesex Hospital is the first hospital in Connecticut to use this type of innovative technology as a way to engage both Hospital workers and the community, and the Hospital has ambitious goals. Hospital staff members make a promise to wash their hands and prevent infection, and they expect and coach members of the community to do the same, Dr. Anand says.
“We’re really aiming to involve the entire community of care in a whole new way that fits right in with the culture of safety at Middlesex,” he says. “If patients and visitors continue good hand-washing habits after leaving the hospital, like washing their hands every time they enter their homes from a trip outside, they may pick up fewer colds or stomach bugs in their daily lives.”