Reduce the spread of Infections with a new sensor

Reduce the spread of Infections with a new sensor

A new sensor, initially created to monitor pet dogs, could help hospitals track hand-washing in hospitals to help reduce the spread of infection by up to 90 per cent in some cases. The World Health Organisation (WHO) cites good hand hygiene as a major factor in stopping the spread of hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) caused by expo sure to various bacteria. In fact, in 2009 the WHO released its “Five Moments of Hand Hygiene“ guidelines, which pinpoint five key moments when hospital staff should wash their hands: before touching a patient, before aseptic procedures, after possible exposure to bodily fluids, after touching a patient, and after touching a patient's surroundings.
  

The MedSense system includes a smart badge, beacons, dispenser monitors, and a base station. Courtesy of General Sensing / MIT

But it's been difficult to track workers' compliance with these guidelines. Administrators usually just spend a few days a month monitoring health care workers, noting hand-hygiene habits on a WHO checklist. Now General Sensing ­ co-founded by MIT Media Lab alumni Jonathan Gips and Philip Liang ­ is using smart devices to monitor hand hygiene among hospital staff and ensure compliance with WHO guidelines. The aim, Liang says, is to help reduce the spread of HAIs.

Called MedSense Clear, the system revolves around a badge worn by hospital staff. The badge can tell when a worker comes near or leaves a patient's side, and whether that worker has used an alcohol-based sanitizer or soap dispenser during those times. It also vibrates to remind workers to wash up. The badge then sends data to a base station that pushes the data to a site where individuals can monitor their hand-washing, and administrators can see data about hand-hygiene.

A 2014 study in the Journal of Infection and Public Health concluded that compliance with WHO hand-washing rules jumped 25 per cent in one month when staff used MedSense in a 16bed hospital unit at Salmaniya Medical Com plex in Bahrain. The startup is also now developing a system to monitor hospital workflow, with aims of pinpointing areas where time and resources may be wasted by unnecessary wait times for patients. “We're trying to drive safety with hand hygiene, and drive efficiency by reducing waste,” Gips says. “Really, we're trying to be a support system for the hospital.”

MedSense consists of four smart devices, including the badge, that communicate with each other. Beacons installed near patients are tuned to any area, creating a “patient zone.” The badge knows if the wearer has washed his or her hands, because the system's soap dispensers are designed to sense pressure when their nozzles are pressed down. If the wearer uses the dispenser, the holder sends that information to the smart badge. When a badge-wearer enters a patient zone and has not performed hand hygiene, the badge vibrates to remind the wearer to wash up, and does so again when they leave. “We think it's important that the system provides feedback when it's actionable without getting in the way of delivering care,” Gips says.

General Sensing may tackle a serious health care issue, but its core technology started as a novelty item: smart dog collars. In the Media Laboratory class at MIT, Liang, Gips, and Noah Paessel created dog collars equipped with RFID technology and accelerometers. These tracked a dog's movement, communicated with smart collars worn by other dogs, and pushed that data online.Owners could log on to a social media site to check their pets' exercise levels, interactions, and compare stats with other pets. When a researcher requested the tech to monitor health care staff, the startup decided to get a clean start in the health care industry.


As part of MedSense Look, the startup is developing small RFID tags that patients and staff wear, and ceiling-mounted transponders to track the tags, in real-time, as the wearers move through the “patient journey“ ­ the waiting room, pre-procedure, procedure, and recovery room. General Sensing creates digital floor maps of an area being studied; patients and staff show up on the floor map as color-coded dots. This allows them to gather data on patient wait times, treatment patterns, and other things that may reveal wasted time and resources.

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