Researchers Develop Non-RFID Hand Hygiene Monitoring System

Philip M. Polgreen, MD, from the Carver College of Medicine at the University of Iowa, and colleagues, have developed a method for automatically tracking the use of hand hygiene dispensers before healthcare workers enter (or after they exit) patient rooms that is easily and quickly deployed without permanent hardware and without the use of radio-frequency identification (RFID) equipment or similar technology. Their research was published in Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology.

The researchers acknowledge that, "Monitoring the hand hygiene adherence of healthcare workers (HCWs) and providing performance feedback to HCWs is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, and the Joint Commission. Currently, adherence is commonly measured by direct observation; this approach is considered the gold standard for determining adherence. However, observational surveys are labor-intensive and expensive. Also, results are susceptible to observer effects, and their reliability can be affected by sporadic sampling."

Polgreen, et al. (2010) explain that their system consists of credit card-sized devices called motes, which are battery-powered, programmable devices consisting of a small processor, flash memory and an Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) 802.15.4compliant wireless radio. Each mote is programmed to broadcast a time-stamped identity packet to other motes. Each message can be received by other motes; from a message one can collect data that includes the identifier of the mote that sent the message, the received signal strength, and the time the message was received; these data are recorded on the receiving mote. The researchers explain further that motes communicate over unused space in the WiFi spectrum and do not interfere with medical devices.

The researchers say that future work will explore deployments in clinical areas and ways to feed back mote-generated data to healthcare professionals. Their work was supported by a National Institutes of Health Career Investigator Award.

Polgreen, PM, et al. Method for Automated Monitoring of Hand Hygiene Adherence Without Radio-Frequency Identification. Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol 2010;31:1294-1297.