It’s the most basic of principles, really, to keep your hands clean to prevent the spread of infections. But it’s something the healthcare industry has struggled with, despite the notion that hand hygiene is commonly associated with preventing healthcare-associated infections.
One study pegged the compliance rate for hand hygiene in U.S. healthcare facilities at less than 50 percent in both ICU and non-ICU settings. It’s not just a problem in the U.S., and many companies worldwide are addressing it. Just in time for National Handwashing Awareness Week, here’s a look at some of the young companies, both here and abroad, that have started up to tackle hand hygiene in healthcare.
HanGenix is a spinout of the Boston-based CIMIT Accelerator program. Its hand-washing compliance system uses an ultrasound device/transmitter mounted above a patient’s bed, and another transmitter mounted on the room’s soap or hand sanitizer dispenser. The transmitters send data to a software system that tracks hand-washing behavior and when the provider interacts with the patient. If he fails to wash his hands before approaching the bed, the receiver emits an audible alarm to remind him to wash his hands.
A similar version of this comes from Israeli startup Hyginex, which has created digital bracelets that work with sensor-embedded soap dispensers to detect whether doctors and nurses have washed their hands long enough and with the proper technique. An alarm sounds if a provider wearing the watch walks by a sensor having not washed her hands, and a green LED light on the watch lets her know she’s in the clear. Compliance is tracked using software that wirelessly receives data from the sensors.
Meanwhile, a Hungarian startup called Clariton is also banking on evaluating compliance with a system that objectively evaluates the quality of hand disinfection. The first prototype of its Hand-in-Scan system uses UV light and digital imaging to evaluate a healthcare professional’s hand washing after he or she has used UV-marked soap.
These solutions seem pretty complex and expensive, though, when compared to others. Take SwipeSense, for example. A duo of Healthbox accelerator graduates designed a personal, portable hand-sanitizer dispenser that healthcare professionals can wear on their scrubs so they can disinfect their hands at any time. Interestingly, they were inspired by observing people wipe their hands on their pants when their hands were dirty. The device also contains an electronic chip that transmits usage data wirelessly so that administrators can track compliance. It’s reportedly being tried at six hospitals around Chicago.
Finally, a husband-and-wife team that makes up RKN Corp. are bringing patients into the equation by creating a disinfectant dispenser that attaches to a hospital’s bed rail. Allowing bed-bound patients to disinfect their hands at any time could help prevent the spread of bacteria when they use bed pans, eat and are visited by several care providers without being able to wash their hands.
[Photo from Hyginex]