New hand sanitation monitors at VCU Medical Center

By Sunni Blevins - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - An important two-week trial wraps up tomorrow at VCU Medical Center.  The hospital is piloting technology that monitors whether or not healthcare workers have clean hands.

Sensors on the walls in each of the patient's rooms activate badges that are worn by each of the nurses. It's a common scene in hospitals, nurses going from room to room checking in on patients, but something is different now in this and other rooms at VCU Mecidal Center.

Using a wall sensor and a badge, a monitoring system called Biovigil is now checking whether or not a healthcare worker has clean hands.

"It has a sensor on it and senses the alcohol that the nurses use for the sanitizer, so there's alcohol in the sanitizer and that's what it does," said engineer Chris Selstrom.

The importance of a program like this is far-reaching and could save lives.

"We believe that the major risk factor that patients have for getting an infection in the hospital relates to lack of hand-washing by healthcare workers, so a significant fraction of the infections could be avoided by increasing hand-washing in hospital," said Dr. Michael Edmond of VCU Medical Center.

Program leaders say this technology is not meant to get healthcare workers in trouble, but simply remind them to keep their hands clean.

"Healthcare workers I think are pretty much constantly multi-tasking, they are very busy, they get distracted, so they forgot to wash their hands, so one of the really true advantages of this program is it provides a reminder to the healthcare worker that they need to wash their hands," Edmond said.

And hospital officials say the program is already working.

"We've seen probably a 20 or 30 percent increase in hand-washing activity, many of the nurses who are wearing this badge are at 100 percent, and the one's that aren't at a 100 percent are in the mid-90s," Edmond said.

The ultimate goal is here is that Biovigil will be used not only in other hospitals, but in other industries, like for a food processing plant.

(c) 2009. WWBT, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.