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● RFID/RTLS/Asset Management

Enlisting automation in the fi ght against nightmare bacteria

RTLS hand-hygiene systems and patient-tracking soſt ware can combat the growing problem of HAIs. By Jon Poshywak


he Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently announced that strains of com- pletely drug-resistant “nightmare” bacteria have quadrupled in the last decade or so, and the bugs

have been lurking around in hundreds of hospitals around the nation, greatly increasing the problem of hospital- acquired infections (HAIs). T ese bacteria carry special genes on a plasmid (a circle of DNA) that can be transmitted from one bacteria to another and confer resistance to the most important and useful anti- biotics that we have for that class of bacteria. While medical science searches for a solution to these

nightmare bacteria, some hospitals are examining how au- tomation can reduce the human errors that can spread this threat. One thing is evident. If the best defense against the latest superbug scare is hand washing, we may be in a lot of trouble. T e Joint Commission requires all medical personnel to wash their hands before and after interacting with patients. In fact, the commission and the American College of Surgeons recommend placing hand sanitizers right on the patient’s bed. Yet, while self-reporting shows compliance at nearly 100 percent, “secret shopper” studies place the national average at 28 to 32 percent. T at’s a very disturbing statistic. However, even at 100 per- cent compliance, hand-washing protocol can be subverted if environmental and transport personnel walk into an isolation room without being forewarned to don protective clothing. When this happens, usually because of antiquated, manually based infection control communications, these staff members and their equipment can then become carriers for hospital-acquired diseases such as MRSA, C. diff . and carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE.

18 June 2013

Jon Poshywak is managing director, RTLS division, TeleTracking Technologies. For more on TeleTracking Technologies: www.

T ese facts have generated signifi cant interest in two forms of hospital automation: real-time location systems (RTLS) that can automatically determine when staff ers are compliant with hand-washing protocol, and early warning infection alerts generated by on-line patient fl ow systems. For example, TeleTracking Technologies off ers these capa- bilities in a hand-hygiene system that works with any RTLS system and patient-tracking software, which makes a patient’s infection status apparent in advance to all who need to know. T e hand-hygiene system monitors hospital workers’ usage of alcohol and soap dispensers on a 24/7 basis, along with their entry and exit to patient-care areas. T is automated monitoring proactively alerts staff to compliance percentages via a hand-hygiene index – delivering enterprise reports that can identify units that have compliance problems or those that are doing very well. Compliance tracking can help hospitals learn where the issues are or identify how specifi c people have found a way to increase compliance. T e system uses infrared, motion, proximity and behav- ioral timeframes to confi rm nurses, physicians and other staff members have washed their hands before touching anything or anyone in patient rooms. It employs a badge-recognition process to register entry

to a room and count the seconds until the entrant moves to the room’s hand sanitizer. A site-specifi c amount of time is allotted for this action before the entrant becomes non- compliant. T e system then uses a reading device on the sanitizer to

acknowledge the staff er’s proximity and tracks the touch of the sanitizer handle or a hand motion beneath to signal and register compliance. T e staff er must also engage in hand washing a set amount of seconds before leaving the room or again be judged non-compliant.


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