PREVENTING INFECTION: Experts say the best way to prevent hospital-acquired infections is by practicing good hand-washing. "Hospital-acquired infections are really one of the major medical problems facing the United States as well as around the world," Don Dennis, M.D., professor of anesthesiology, pharmacology and psychiatry at the University of Florida in Gainesville, told Ivanhoe. "Approximately half of those conditions are related to poor hand hygiene." The difficulty, experts say, lies in ensuring that all hospital workers abide by hand hygiene guidelines. Currently, human observers periodically monitor how closely health care workers are following the CDC's guidelines for hand-washing.
SNIFFING OUT CLEAN HANDS: Researchers at the University of Florida have developed a system they hope could replace human observers as a way to monitor and enforce hand-washing practices at health care facilities. The sensor system, called HyGreen, scans hands after they are washed to check for fumes of soap or hand sanitizer. If a health care worker takes more than 90 seconds to enter the proximity of a patient and begin care, a badge vibrates as a reminder to wash the hands again. "From our preliminary data, we can catch every instance where a health care worker washes their hands and every instance where they don't wash their hands," Richard Melker, M.D., Ph.D., professor of anesthesiology, pediatrics and biomedical engineering at the University of Florida in Gainesville, told Ivanhoe. The HyGreen system also logs to the second the frequency of hand-washing and patient contact in a database that clinical supervisors can review as needed.
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