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Monitoring hand washing with RFID

January 14, 2014
by Richard R. Rogoski
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Proper hand washing is critical in hospitals and skilled nursing facilities. And to ensure that staff members are, indeed, keeping their hands clean, Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM and OhioHealth in Columbus have teamed up to install hand-washing monitors that use RFID technology.

Using IBM's Low-power Mote Technologies (LMT) with built-in radio frequency identification (RFID), the wireless sensors are located at hand-washing stations throughout the hospital.

Early results already show more than 90 percent compliance with hand-washing standards at this hospital, according to an IBM press release.

The sensors are connected through a wireless mesh network and are able to capture time-stamped information as to the use of each hand-washing station. For those sensors installed in patient rooms, the RFID capability also allows hospital administrators to detect when a specific staff member entered or left the room.

Data collection and analysis uses cloud technology and IBM's Measurement and Managements Technologies (MMT), a system that can collect, manage and process real-time information. Once the data is analyzed, it is stored for use in on-demand reports or compliance studies.

"Superbugs like MRSA can live for hours on surfaces, and we want to do everything we can to protect our patients from these kinds of serious infections," said Michael Krouse, senior vice president and CIO of OhioHealth.

Hand hygiene is considered the number one way to avoid transference of infectious disease, and is especially important in nursing homes, where residents are not restricted to a single space and where outbreaks of MRSA and other organisms can be life-threatening to a frail population.