Pharmacy OneSource Blog

Infection Prevention Technologies You Should Know About

Posted on 10/13/14


New or updated infection prevention technologies are being released quickly, making it challenging for an infection preventionist (IP) to stay current with the latest technologies. Here we highlight a few of the newer infection prevention technologies that have assisted key aspects of high-performing infection prevention and control programs: 

  • Automated hand hygiene compliance monitoring--Hand hygiene may be the single most effective step in minimizing the spread of healthcare-associated infections (HAIs). Getting healthcare workers to rigorously follow hand hygiene protocols remains challenging when frequent, direct observation by an infection preventionist or others is not possible. Automated compliance monitoring devices can sense whether clinicians and other hospital staff have adequately washed their hands, which may effectively supplement observations by an IP. Some devices identify healthcare workers by using a radio-frequency identification (RFID) tag. The device starts a timer when anyone approaches a soap or sanitizer dispenser; the timer stops when the person leaves the dispenser. The system then receives an electronic alert and records when anyone fails to wash for the required 15 to 20 seconds. In other systems, a device in a patient’s room scans the healthcare provider’s hands and vibrates the name tag if the device detects insufficient cleansing of the hands. Devices can provide data on the frequency, time and location of hand washing, as well as monitoring consumption of soap/alcohol rubs throughout the hospital, enabling IPs to monitor compliance rates and identify which healthcare workers need additional training on the importance of and proper technique for ensuring hand hygiene. Finally, the use of video cameras has also been utilized in controlled environments (such as operating rooms) as a tool to monitor processes such as hand hygiene in real time with subsequent clinician feedback.

  • Electronic surveillance systems--IPs today spend nearly 50% of their time on surveillance activities such as identifying patients who may have HAIs or other infections that require additional isolation precautions; maintaining spreadsheets and databases of patients with infections and cross-checking them against lab reports, clinical notes, and admission/discharge/transfer data; and analyzing reports of infections to determine patterns or communicable disease outbreaks [1]. Electronic surveillance systems can help automate these activities, allowing IPs to spend more time on performance improvement activities, education, and timely interventions to avoid adverse events before they occur. These systems generate near real-time reports and alerts of opportunities for IPs to isolate infected patients, take steps to control outbreaks, intervene in drug/bug mismatches and ensure procedures for reducing HAIs are followed without having to wade through multiple data systems and disparate reports. According to published research reports, automated surveillance systems reduce HAIs by 10% to 70% compared with manual processes [2].

  • Automated National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) reporting--State and federal mandated reporting of HAIs require infection preventionists to track and record infections in significant detail, a laborious and time-consuming process. Reporting modules in clinical surveillance systems can prepare completed data collection forms in proper format for NHSN import.

What other infection prevention technologies would you recommend? Please leave your comments below.

1 Stone PW, Pogorzelska-Maziarz M, Herzig CT, Weiner LM, Furuya EY, Dick A, Larson E. State of infection prevention in US hospitals enrolled in the National Health and Safety Network.l. Am J Infect Control. 2014 Feb;42(2):94-9.

2 Palumbo AJ, Loveless PA, Moll ME, Ostroff S. Evaluation of healthcare-associated infection surveillance in Pennsylvania hospitals. Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol. 2012 Feb;  33(2): 105-11.

Implementation of Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy Programs in a Health System

Topics: Infection Prevention

About the Author

Cathy Thompson, MBA Cathy is a Biomedical Engineer with an MBA by education and has spent the majority of her career in the healthcare industry marketing both medical devices and IT applications.