Infection prevention and control practices are crucial in maintaining a safe environment for everyone by reducing the risk of the potential spread of disease. In American hospitals alone, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that Healthcare Acquired Infections (HAIs) account for an estimated 1.7 million infections and 99,000 associated deaths each year. 

The CDC and the Worldwide Health Organization (WHO) are in agreement that the most powerful way to reduce the spread of infections in hospitals is by properly training healthcare workers to follow proper hand hygiene compliance guidelines. A recent article by the National Center for Biotechnology Information discusses that hands are the most common vehicle for transmission of organisms and that “hand hygiene” is the single most effective means of preventing the horizontal transmission of infections among hospital patients and healthcare personnel.

Hand hygiene monitoring solutions that have been on the market for over a decade utilize Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology, which, based on simple physics, is ineffective at monitoring hand hygiene compliance and tracking infection spread in a healthcare setting. The trouble is that RFID has a difficult relationship working among liquids and metals, as both make it harder to get proper reads on assets. With metal, the problem stems from the radio waves bouncing all over the place. Liquids play havoc with RFID in that it can absorb signals sent from a tag.

One healthcare company, Intelligent Observation, enables hospitals to consistently monitor hand hygiene compliance by delivering a fully integrated personal smart badge and location-aware reader.  Near Field Magnetic Induction (NFMI) fully integrated personal smart badges and location-aware readers enable hospitals to consistently monitor hand hygiene compliance. Technology effectively monitors hand hygiene compliance with a device that needs to be worn on a human body. 

This reveals a major flaw with RFID technology since RFID cannot accurately transmit through water. Our bodies are composed of up to 60% water, so RFID devices worn on a person are highly inaccurate. NFMI is a technology that provides centimeter level proximity detection. It is FDA approved to be used in a healthcare setting and is extremely accurate as a device worn on a person. 

Many devices use NFMI technology to replace current ‘visual observation’ processes for hand hygiene compliance monitoring in a healthcare setting. One of the main benefits of NFMI is its high accuracy rate. NFMI devices capture every hand hygiene compliance event in a hospital. Using NFMI is also configurable. The centimeter-level configurability allows it to mimic current hand hygiene compliance standards in a healthcare facility. 

Another benefit of implementing NFMI technology is that it’s cost-effective and scalable. NFMI is the same technology that is used in the automotive industry for cars that have push-button ignitions and key fobs. It’s a widely available technology that’s scalable even to the largest of healthcare organizations at a price point significantly less than RFID competitive solutions. This is because NFMI doesn’t need to involve an integrated installation system. RFID systems also run primarily on battery-operated sensors that allow for a low complex, simple installation process in a healthcare setting.

One solution developed involves using proprietary algorithms and firmware to make NFMI work extraordinarily well in the use case of hand hygiene compliance monitoring and infection tracing. Using the built-in characteristics of NFMI, along with custom algorithms, that data collected allows hospitals to view hand hygiene compliance data at the unit, room, role and individual healthcare worker level. This provides for very powerful and actionable data to inform training and education. 

By collecting data at the room and individual healthcare worker level, companies, like Intelligent Observation, are able to provide an Infection Tracing tool that enables hospitals to track the potential spread of infections. If an infection is discovered in a particular room, the Infection Tracing tool provides the ability to see all healthcare workers that came in and out of that room for a specified date range. It also makes it easier for the hospital to trace what other rooms possible infections may have subsequently entered. Additionally, the data collection provides the added benefit of each healthcare worker’s hand hygiene compliance for each room entry and exit. 

Since HAIs are a major safety concern for both health care providers and the patients, implementing NFMI technology is important for hospital hygiene practices. Considering morbidity, mortality increased length of stay and the cost, efforts should be made to make the hospitals as safe as possible by preventing such infections and providing data for proper training and education.

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