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

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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