New high-tech system monitors hand hygiene

SUMMERVILLE, S.C. (WCIV) -- It's considered common sense for doctors and nurses to wash their hands, but Summerville Medical Center has put in a new monitoring system that will prove whether they're doing just that.

The hospital recently finished a pilot program with General Electric Healthcare to monitor hand washing protocol. Officials chose to continue with the system and expand it to the entire operation.

"Throughout the hospital at every soap and gel dispenser you'll find a sensor and the way the system works, that sensor tries to identify an individual caregiver who has what we call a hand hygiene event," said CEO Louis Caputo.

The sensors register employee badges. There is also an additional sensor inside a patient's room that tracks when a care provider enters and leaves.

The information is immediately entered into a database that breaks down the information by department and employee.

"You can actually get it down to the individual level, even to the hour and to the date," he said.

Summerville Medical has not had a problem with acquired infections but they say they want to keep it that way.

"We want to make sure we are using this technology and leveraging that data it implies so we can engage our staff to make sure they are doing as good of a job as possible for the patients and for themselves," Caputo said.

Prior to this technology, Caputo says they had what he describes as a secret shopper system, where people would monitor a few times a month if employees were obeying the rules.

He says the old process recorded about 80 to 85 observations. In the grand scheme of things, he says it's such a small sample size compared to the thousands of hand washing this device monitors daily.

Trident Medical Center will be equipped with the technology in a few months.