Electronic Hand Hygiene Monitoring

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Radio Frequency Identification

Hand hygiene is a basic infection control practice that is expected of all healthcare providers.  However, compliance remains unacceptably low across the world. Investigators at the University of Chicago believe that this failure is at least in part attributable to the inability to monitor practice effectively or efficiently and the lack of individual-specific feedback on performance. Radio Frequency Identification technology (widely used in applications such as inventory tracking and automated toll payment) offers the opportunity to electronically monitor hand hygiene 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with accurate individual-specific hand hygiene compliance rates. The University of Chicago is leading a project to test this technology in our medical intensive care unit in an effort to protect some of our most vulnerable patients and to better understand the role of individual feedback in shaping clinician behavior.

Researchers from the University of Chicago recently completed a pilot study to examine the potential of RFID to track and monitor complex patterns of movement by healthcare workers moving in and around a patient room.  This early work, completed in collaboration with experts from the Illinois Institute of Technology and Motorola appeared to confirm the potential of this novel technology.

In the next phase of investigation, collaborators from Proventix (Birmingham, AL) have installed a comprehensive RFID system in the Medical Intensive Care Unit at the University of Chicago Medical Center.  Beginning in 2011, a longitudinal examination of the performance of RFID surveillance as compared with conventional methods of hand hygiene monitoring will be undertaken.  In addition, preliminary findings will be applied to examine appropriate incentives for enhancing compliance.