Fighting Hospital Infections

March 5, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Hand-washing is our greatest weapon in the fightagainst hospital-acquired infections, but a recent study found hospital workers wash their hands less than 50-percent of the time after direct contact with patients. Guidelines and quality checks work to a point, but researchers are turning to the first-ever real-time monitoring system for hand-washing.Gregory Gardner thought his father was out of the woods after a successful colon cancer operation until a five-month battle with the infection c-diff took his life. "It left a big empty space," Gardner told Ivanhoe.

Pat Mastors also lost her father to a hospital-acquired infection. "He went in for neck surgery, and two days after the surgery, his intestines ruptured," Mastors Explained to Ivanhoe.

They're one of 99-thousand Americans who die from the infections each year. Deaths that experts say are far too preventable. "Conservative estimates indicate that the cost of hospital-acquired infections is at least $30 billion per year in the United States," Don Dennis, MD, professor for the departments of anesthesiology, pharmacology and psychiatry at the University of Florida in Gainesville told Ivanhoe. "About half of the infections are attributable to improper hand-washing."

To help remedy the problem, researchers are testing a technology inspired by alcohol detection tests that sniffs out good hand hygiene. After a nurse or doctor washes their hands, a sensor communicates with a special badge. When they get within five feet of a patient, a monitor near the bed reads the badge and flashes green. If they pass the 90-second window before seeing a patient, the badge vibrates.

"The idea is that as soon as you wash your hands, you go immediately into the care of the patient," Richard J. Melker, M.D., Ph.D., professor of anesthesiology, pediatrics and biomedical engineering at the University of Florida in Gainesville explained to Ivanhoe.

Healthcare workers report the system is making a difference. For some, change comes too late. "I wouldn't want to see any other family go through what we went through," Gardner said.

"We don't deserve to die from infections," Mastors said.

It is working to make hospitals places of healing, not hurting. The soap-sniffing technology just went on the market in October. In the future, developers hope to put it into use at nursing homes and restaurants to slow the spread of bacteria and infection. One of the dirtiest places in the hospital might be on your doctor's tie. One study found almost half of ties worn by clinicians harbored disease-causing bacteria.

For More Information, Contact:
Elena Casson
Director of Marketing
Xhale, Inc. HyGreen Division
(352) 371-8488
ecasson@xhale.com


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