As the healthcare industry spends millions of dollars developing vaccines, large-scale disinfectors and hand washing initiatives for care providers, a Cleveland-area nurse and her husband are proposing a much simpler contribution to the fight against hospital-acquired infections.
Encourage patients to clean their hands more, too.
Hand hygiene, after all, is widely regarded as the key to preventing the spread of infection. And bedbound patients may use bed pans, eat, have their dressings changed and be touched by several care providers without being able to wash their hands.
“If a nurse is contaminated and she comes in and touches the bedrails, the patient is at risk,” said Nina Knighton, RN. Those patients may be especially at risk for C. difficile or E.coli infections, which are acquired from oral ingestion of spores, she said.
Mobile patients who don’t wash their hands could be contributing to the problem, too. “They are contaminating themselves when they leave the room and are also putting everyone else at risk,” she added.
Nina and her husband, Robert, formed RKN Corp. in 2010 to develop a simple device that they hope will help minimize patients’ contribution to hospital-associated infections. The Exo-Clenz is a small hand sanitizer dispenser that attaches to the hospital bed, so patients can clean their hands without getting up. It has an antimicrobial coating and includes an audio and visual reminder system and a built-in tracking system to promote compliance.
So far, the Knightons have raised $75,000 of personal and grant funding to bring the device to market, and they’re looking for follow-on funding to complete a functional prototype. They are part of Northeast Ohio’s Speed-to-Market Accelerator and hope their device could be in hospitals as early as next year.
About one in 20 hospital patients in the U.S. will acquire an infection, and WHO has estimated that there are 1.4 million cases of HIAs at any given time.