I have a very close family friend, and she is the Secretary of Health for the state of Washington. She was asked what the number one thing was that she thought could change the quality of health of Americans. I expected her answer to be a cure for cancer, or a reduction in obesity. Her answer? Wash your hands.
She is one of the growing number of health care professionals who agree that the simple act of washing ones hands more often can drastically change the face of health care by reducing the spread of germs and disease. In fact, a new invention by Efrat Raichman is helping the people who are in contact with germs all day to remember to wash their hands. Raichman, who is a computer scientist and an engineer, had someone close to her die from an infection they had acquired after a minor surgery in the hospital.
In hospitals, many patients have compromised immune systems, or have recently had surgery, and do not have the same abilities to fight off bacteria or a virus that a healthy person would. And I’m not talking about the stomach flu: there are types of bacteria that cannot be effectively treated with antibiotics. Staphylococcus aureus, commonly known as a staph infection, has become drug resistant, and can be deadly.
A recent study showed that only twenty six percent of health care workers in the ICU follow hand-washing protocol, and only thirty six percent of non-ICU workers washed their hands, after seeing each new patient. The Center for Disease Control estimates that up to one fifth of people who enter a hospital will acquire a hospital infection, and five percent of those people actually die from the infection.
Raichman has developed a wristband sensor that helps health care workers remember to wash their hands. The system, called Hygenix, is composed of wristbands worn by the health care workers, sensors throughout the hospital, and in the soap dispensers themselves. A sensor detects when a worker approaches a patient. An LED light turns on in the bracelet and the bracelet vibrates. Once the worker dispenses soap from the dispenser and washes his or her hands, the sensor resets. The sensor can even detect if the worker used enough soap, and will not reset until the proper amount of soap has been used.
The sensors keep a log of workers and their compliance, so that managers can see which workers are following protocol. Hygenix was tested in an ICU in Israel, where the device was developed, and compliance rose from twenty five percent to forty four percent in two months. Hygenix has plans to expand to the United States and Europe.
In the mean time, don’t be afraid to ask anyone who comes in contact with you while on a health care visit (yes, including your OBGYN) to wash their hands before coming in contact with you. It could literally save your life.
RELATED FROM AROUND THE WEB