Canadian-made solution shown to improve hand hygiene
August 31, 2020
In North America about 5 percent of all patients in a hospital or LTC centre will acquire a hospital acquired infection (HAI), and some of them will die. In fact, 100,000 patients die each year in hospital from HAI and about 400,000 die in LTC – every year.
More frequent handwashing is a simple and effective way to lower infection. However, in a healthcare environment staff get busy treating patients, and sometimes they simply forget to wash up.
The answer may lie with a new Canadian solution called Buddy Badge. It reminds you to wash your hands prior to and after contact with patients.
Created by Hygienic Echo (hygienicecho.com) – a startup company founded by Dr. Geoff Fernie, senior scientist at Toronto Rehabilitation Institute (TRI) – Buddy Badge was beta tested in 2019 at five care units of TRI and the results were later published in the American Journal of Infection Control. They also published 20 peer review papers, and hold eight patents on the technology.
“We showed it’s capable of doubling the rate of hand hygiene,” said Dr. Fernie. “And when prompted by Buddy Badge, nurses wash up sooner before going into a room.” However, studies also showed when Buddy Badge was taken away, hand hygiene declined back to previous or similar levels.
Buddy Badge is a wearable technology with an “eye” that senses when a healthcare worker approaches a patient zone (an invisible electronically monitored area around the patient). It vibrates to indicate the user should wash their hands.
After washing their hands, their badge will glow green for one minute. When leaving a patient zone, the badge will vibrate again reminding them to wash their hands on the way out.
“The goal of Buddy Badge is to save lives and prevent illness through improved hygiene,” said Geoff Fernie. “It’s the result of 18-years of research.”
Buddy Badge is not intended to be intrusive – it’s meant to be a friend. It quietly vibrates to remind people to wash their hands if they missed an opportunity to do so. It’s all done discreetly so as to not embarrass anyone.
The Buddy Badge System includes:
- Badges – small, lightweight wearable devices with an eye at the top for locating Zone markers that indicate when boundaries are crossed.
- Zone markers – beacons attached to or near the entrance to a patient room to indicate when healthcare staff walk in/out.
- Dispenser – counters that notice if you’ve used soap or hand sanitizer each time the pump is used.
- Charging station – a table top with 56 sockets and a touch-pad. By tapping the surface with an ID badge a message will flash indicating which badge the user should take.
Data is collected and securely delivered through a cellular network to the cloud. It doesn’t use any hospital infrastructure, or private or public Wi-Fi. Once in the cloud, the data is compiled into customizable digital dashboards that enable measurement and analysis of hand hygiene practices. It also tracks equipment status, battery life of the device(s), and soap or sanitizer levels.
“Stats can be viewed by anyone authorized to see it,” Fernie explained. “Anyone wearing a badge can log into a Web application on their computer, cell phone or iPad, and view a dashboard displaying a graph of how they did over the last seven days, how the unit is doing on average and how they compare.”
Buddy Badge can improve hand hygiene in more than just hospitals; it can be used effectively in long-term care institutions, the food industry, airlines and schools.
“Everyone talks about hand hygiene compliance, but our emphasis has shifted to calculating exposure,” said Fernie. “COVID has increased the monitoring of exposure in healthcare workers. The attempt is to reduce exposure to patients and to fellow colleagues so they don’t take it home and get sick.”
There are other hand hygiene systems on the market, but most of them only count. And they don’t tell you if staff washed their hands at the right time, in the right place and who did it. Moreover, none are suited to long-term care facilities where residents spend most of their time in common spaces such as dining and recreation areas.
In September, Hygienic Echo will be installing its first demonstration systems so people can see what they look like, and how they might work in their own environments. They’re also looking for investment opportunities to help extend their reach into other markets like the U.S. and Europe.
The current pandemic has proven poor infection control is more than just an expense to healthcare facilities; it can bring down entire economies. “It’s wise to do everything you can to lower transmission of infection. Not just in healthcare but in the food industry, travel and business in general.”
There’s also a growing issue with anti-microbial resistance – bacterial infections. In Canada, as much as 26-percent of people die from an untreatable bug. That number may rise to 40-percent by 2040.