Radio-Frequency Identification Battles HAIs, Boosts Hand Hygiene

According to data in a U.S. public health report from 2007, healthcare-acquired infections (HAIs) affect more than 2 million people in the U.S. annually and cause 100,000 deaths, while significantly raising hospitalization time and costs. Studies have shown a low level of compliance rates for medical staff's handwashing, despite their awareness that hand hygiene could dramatically reduce HAI rates.

By Yedidia Blonder

Hospitals are intended to be the medium for cure. Unfortunately, for many it turns out to be a dangerous, even deadly, environment. According to data in a U.S. public health report from 2007, healthcare-acquired infections (HAIs) affect more than 2 million people in the U.S. annually and cause 100,000 deaths, while significantly raising hospitalization time and costs.

Studies have shown a low level of compliance rates for medical staff's handwashing, despite their awareness that hand hygiene could dramatically reduce HAI rates. Hospital staff members are under a perpetually heavy work load, which could explain the fact that even major educational efforts and implementation of special procedures don't bring the desired results in hand hygiene. Even if it takes only 30 seconds to wash your hands, it may fall by the wayside if youre expected to see a large number of patients in a small amount of time.

Enter RFID. RFID (radio frequency identification) is often known as an advanced barcoding system, used for inventory or asset management. The advantages of RFID over barcodes are that RFID tags usually identify objects uniquely, whereas barcodes are usually used to identify an object as one of many belonging to a larger category. Additionally, barcodes need to be read individually from very close proximity, whereas RFID readers can read many tags from a few meters away.

A system that has RFID tags, RFID readers and an RFID software system to coordinate all the data can pinpoint any tagged items location. Vizbee Healthcare is one such staff- and patient-tracking system that prevents infection by regulating staff's handwashing and disinfection patterns. RFID tags are attached to staff badges, patient bracelets and hand-washing station soap dispensers. RFID readers placed in unobtrusive locations around the hospital wing. Rules can be set up in the software system to notify staff any time, for example:
- a staff member enters a defined zone (ICU, for example) without having come into contact with the soap dispenser immediately before
- a staff member comes into contact with a patient, then leaves the vicinity of the patient and has not come into contact with the soap dispenser for more than a minute afterward
- used medical equipment is returned to the working cycle without undergoing disinfection
- a patient with an infectious disease leaves the area he is authorized to be in

Rules can be chosen and programmed based on the individual hospitals needs and set-up. If the undesirable happens and a dangerous infection crops up, Vizbee Healthcare can help achieve effective control of contamination. The RFID system can use its data logs to pinpoint the staff and other patients who were in contact with the infected individual prior to the discovery. The hospital can then take steps to examine and treat these people, preventing the spread of the infection to others.

Yedidia Blonder is the product manager of Vizbee RFID Solutions.
 

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