Health IT

Group seeks mandatory electronic monitoring of hand hygiene

The newly formed Electronic Hand Hygiene Compliance Organization, or EHCO, plans on lobbying CMS, private payers, the Joint Commission and patient safety organizations.


Eight vendors of automated hand hygiene technology have come together in an effort to have continuous electronic monitoring of hand washing become the standard of care in hospitals. They are working through a newly formed organization called the Electronic Hand Hygiene Compliance Organization, or EHCO.

“The only standards for measuring hand hygiene today is someone with a clipboard,” said EHCO Chairman Paul Alper, who is vice president of patient safety strategy for founding member DebMed, a unit of S.C. Johnson.

“Direct observation is no longer acceptable as the gold standard for hand hygiene,” Alper said. He cited data suggesting that this method uncovers as little as 1.2 percent of all lapses in hand hygiene, and said that it is “statistically insignificant.”

Data is taken from a presentation at the 2011 Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America scientific meeting.

Data is taken from a presentation at the 2011 Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America scientific meeting.

“Unfortunately, we still have over 700,000 preventable infections and 75,000 preventable deaths” from hospital-acquired conditions in the U.S. annually, Alper explained.

EHCO, which also includes Airista, BioVigil, CenTrak, Clean Hands-Safe Hands, Hill-Rom, SwipeSense and Versus Technology, will be reaching out to three constituencies: payers, including the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services; accreditation organizations such as the Joint Commission; and patient safety advocacy groups. Alper said EHCO would like some of the latter category to join the new organization.

Obviously, the companies want to sell more product, but hospitals already have an imperative to reduce hospital-acquired conditions. CMS started penalizing the worst-performing providers last fiscal year. Beginning in 2017, 85 percent of the score will be based on infection control.

EHCO members would like to see CMS, private payers and accreditation organizations come up with recommendations, guidelines or mandates regarding hand hygiene.

“The key [for EHCO] is to connect the dots between infections and hand hygiene,” Alper said. “We need to get the category to expand using the evidence that’s being created.”