Health system turns to RFID to slash infection rates

Infection control via improved hand-washing efforts is the impetus for a recently announced pilot project involving big data and wireless sensors at Columbus, Ohio-based OhioHealth.

The 17-hospital system plans to monitor staff hand-washing practices in real time using radio frequency identification technology integrated with wireless sensors. The technology has already been installed at every hand-washing station at one OhioHealth's hospitals in Columbus.

Thus far, the pilot has helped the hospital achieve more than 90 percent compliance with handwashing standards.

"Superbugs like MRSA can live for hours on surfaces, and we want to do everything we can to protect our patients from these kinds of serious infections," OhioHealth Senior Vice President and CIO Michael Krouse said in a statement.

Proper hand hygiene can reduce methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections by as much as 95 percent, according to Virginia Commonwealth University researchers. In a nine-year study published in fall of 2012, researchers found horizontal infection-prevention strategies that encourage hand washing to prevent MRSA and other infections that are transmitted via contact could be more effective than the traditional vertical approach of simply isolating MRSA patients.

Meanwhile, research published last summer concluded that electronic monitoring helped to dramatically improve hand hygiene among nurses in Canada. For the study, researchers developed a system that automatically detected hand hygiene opportunities and recorded hygiene actions, and installed it at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute. Badges worn by 14 nurses that were connected with sensors in patient areas buzzed whenever the nurses failed to wash their hands.

In addition, a scientific poster presented at the American Public Health Association 141st Annual meeting this past fall determined that hospitals could reduce nosocomial infections through the use of new technology, such as alarms for scheduled filter changes or pressurized mats in front of hand-washing areas that ensure employees spend enough time at the sink.

To learn more:
- here's the announcement