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Surewash aims to standardise hand hygiene compliance25th of November 2011
ECJ reports on a state-of-the-art technology aimed at improving hand hygiene compliance and standardising technique in applications such as healthcare.
The numerous studies that have taken place worldwide can now leave us in no doubt about the key role hand hygiene has to play in safeguarding us from infection and cross-contamination - whatever the setting. Any shortfalls in hand hygiene practice are most acutely highlighted in the healthcare industry of course, where the consequences have resulted in high instances of hospital-acquired infections (HAIs).
So now everyone is convinced about hand hygiene - how do we ensure healthcare professionals all know how to wash their hands properly, and wash them to a standard that adheres with guidelines set out by the World Health Organisation (WHO)? And equally important, how to monitor hand washing practices and maintain those high standards of compliance?
Glanta, a spin-out company from Trinity College in Dublin formed just one year ago, has developed a system based on image processing technology that actually measures hand hygiene - called Surewash. It was invented by Professor Gerry Lacey, a senior lecturer at the college.
Founder and ceo Sean Bay explained the thinking behind it. "Surewash focuses on the technique of hand washing, and is based on the WHO's standard which involves a number of very definite steps. Research has proved bacteria count is at least 50 per cent lower when people wash their hands properly. What we are offering is a sustainable training programme with the aim of a culture change in hand hygiene."
The Surewash training module comes in the form of a cart on wheels that can be moved around a hospital from ward to ward. On the cart is a video screen, where staff stand and perform the hand washing poses laid down in the guidelines. The technology in the system understands the poses the hands are making and is looking for prescribed movements as laid down in the system's templates. It also looks for the right kind of motions being made by the hands, and it can differentiate if there are slight variations on the correct technique.
The training element takes just five minutes to complete, and when each pose is carried out correctly the user sees a large green tick on the screen so can move on to the next one. Sean Bay called on expertise from the gaming industry when developing the user interface: "We found that breaking the process down into component parts engages people much more effectively. And giving them visual feedback when they do it correctly is motivational - it makes them want to move on to the next pose."
Surewash also features an assessment module, which takes just 30 seconds and can be carried out at regular intervals as staff pass by the unit. Real-time feedback is given on hand washing technique and it's this regularity which Bay feels is another key element. "Good hand hygiene practice cannot be delivered with one presentation. It needs to be consistent and training must be sustained.
"Surewash can be used literally all day, every day. It's an effective source of quick, repetitive training. And because it can be placed in the ward, it keeps staff in their workplace and its speed means they are back at work as quickly as possible."
Monitoring and reporting
The technology behind Surewash also means varying degrees of reporting are possible. For example, it can highlight the pose most staff are having trouble in mastering. Comparative data is also available, for example between teams of staff, different wards, etc. Software is available in many languages and can be updated as necessary with customised/varying messages, explained Bay.
"This keeps staff members engaged and they can be updated on new messages the hospital management wants to deliver to them – while also checking, of course, that their hand hygiene technique is still spot-on."
There are plans in early 2012 to introduce Surewash Audit, a system whereby small screens are placed above sinks in hospitals and hand washing data is analysed far more closely. "Reporting and data can be customised according to needs and this will offer hospitals the ability to monitor hand hygiene practice much more closely, analyse trends as they emerge and take action on issues of concern before they become too serious," explained Bay.
Having trialled at a number of hospitals in Ireland and the UK, Glanta is now taking Surewash to market and is keen to establish relationships with key players in the hand hygiene sector - hand soap and paper towel manufacturers for example. "Surewash is highly complementary to those products," Bay says.
The company is also seeking distribution for the system across Europe and beyond.
Bay concludes: " We aim to be supportive in helping hygiene professionals achieve 100 per cent in hand hygiene compliance. Surewash offers the opportunity to have a single standard hand hygiene protocol."