Patients Can Now Catch Clinicians Not Washing Hands

One would hope that medical professionals would wash their hands a lot. I mean, these people encounter all sorts of germs and diseases all day long. However, with the ever-increasing amount of hospital-acquired infections plaguing patients, that doesn’t always appear to be the case.

A new system called SafeHands may help patient’s to know if the clinician working with them has recently washed their hands. The system “employs a near-field monitoring sensors that reads the electrical field that runs across the surface of a patient’s skin,” according to this article. When someone touches the person using the system, the field is disturbed, detected, and monitored. It is connected to a hand hygiene system which can check if the clinician has recently washed and disinfected their hands. If someone violated the protocol, the camera built into the system will take an image.

This isn’t the first technology being used to monitor hand washing.

Over two dozen Alabama hospitals have been participating in the “Putting Power into Healthcare Initiative.” Hospitals participating must install monitoring systems in all patient rooms and other care-areas, which detect whether or not an employee has washed their hands.

In case anyone feels like this is a waste of money, according to a study at Princeton Baptist Medical Center, the infection rates dropped by 24 percent and saved the hospital more than $133,000 over the 7-month study.

I’m not sure exactly how I feel about the system where a patient can track whether or not a doctor has washed their hands. For one thing, it seems a bit big brother-y, seeing as a “secret” photograph is taken when a violation is made. There’s got to be some kind of law against that! I feel like there could be a lot of room for error as well, but I don’t know how well-developed the product is. It might be easier just to encourage patients to ask their physician or nurse to wash their hands, rather than discretely checking. But, then again, some people may feel awkward doing that.

The results that came from the Princeton Baptist Medical Center study are interesting though. If rates fell that dramatically just with the installation of the monitoring systems, then I’d say it’s worth it for hospitals around the country to install those systems as well. It seems a little less weird, seeing as it is the hospital doing the monitoring, not the patient (not to say a patient shouldn’t speak up about certain things. It just shouldn’t be done secretly).

It’s pretty crazy, all of the medical technology coming out. But does there come a point when something goes a little far? I think this sensor might be hitting that point.