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OM in the News: RFID Tags Ensure Hospital Hygiene Practices

April 6, 2013
Wristband contains RFID reader and motion sensors to measure hygiene

Wristband contains RFID reader and motion sensors to measure hygiene

My wife was so disturbed with yesterday’s post about hospital quality problems, that I decided to provide a positive hospital story today. RFID Journal (April 1, 2013) reports  that IntelligentM has developed a hospital solution that employs RFID readers built into wristbands to identify tags on soap dispensers, intravenous (IV) solution packaging, surgical drains and ID badges–thereby alerting users if they fail to wash their hands, or need to do so more thoroughly.

Users’ wristbands incorporate very small readers that interrogate RFID tags installed on sinks, disinfectant dispensers and other objects. IntelligentM also sends weekly hand-hygiene “report cards” to employees. In developing the system, the firm wanted to be able to provide alerts that would lead to corrective action being taken before a patient was exposed to potentially infectious materials. The wristband is small enough so as not to be cumbersome to users who may also be wearing and removing rubber gloves.

When the nurse places her hand under a sanitizer or soap dispenser, the wristband reader interrogates the tag mounted there. The reader vibrates once, reminding the wristband bearer to indeed wash her hands, and indicating that it has read the dispenser’s tag. If the band detects that she has stopped washing before the proper amount of predetermined scrubbing time has elapsed, it vibrates three pulses, thereby prompting her to wash her hands a second time using the proper procedure.

When the nurse meets with a patient and begins a procedure, such as opening an IV package, a tag on that package is read and the system again identifies the action based on the tag’s ID number. The wristband’s software checks its database to determine the last time this worker had washed her hands. If it was not recent enough, the tag vibrates three times to indicate she must wash her hands before continuing the procedure.

Discussion questions:

1. What other uses for RFID can you envision in hospitals?

2. What prevents this system from being universally applied?

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