Hospital monitors hand-washing with GE software

Louis Caputo, CEO of Summerville Medical Center, demonstrates the use of the  software-connected soap dispensers at the medical center. (Photo/Leslie Burden)
Louis Caputo, CEO of Summerville Medical Center, demonstrates the use of the  software-connected soap dispensers at the medical center. (Photo/Leslie Burden)

By Lauren Ratcliffe
Published April 3, 2013

Summerville Medical Center recently finished participation in a nearly one-year pilot program with GE Healthcare to monitor hand-washing protocol using employee badges and software-connected soap dispensers.

The medical center has now integrated the technology into its regular operations.

Hospital-acquired infections had not been a problem at Summerville Medical, executives said, but they acknowledged that nationally one in every 20 patients acquires an infection while being treated.

The pilot technology and program created by GE Healthcare was intended to keep the hospital’s infection rate low.

“It really was an honor and a unique experience to be involved with something that was a development project,” said Louis Caputo, CEO of Summerville Medical Center.

The system involves a software program that tracks and analyzes data sent to it from the hardware found on about 300 employee badges and at every soap and hand-sanitizer station in clinical areas. Sensors in patient rooms track when an employee enters the room and whether they wash their hands within 30 seconds of entering that room.

Summerville Medical Center was selected to pilot the program because of the hospital’s long-standing relationship with GE Healthcare, said Fran Dirksmeier, general manager of global asset management with GE Healthcare.

“We had our products already installed,” he said, adding that GE also offers software to manage and reduce patient wait times throughout the hospital.

Every day, Caputo and other management staff track how compliant the hospital’s employees were with washing their hands through a dashboard on their computers. Prior to using this technology, “secret shoppers” would pay visits to the hospital and watch to see whether doctors sanitized their hands before entering patient rooms.

Caputo said the old method typically recorded between 80 and 85 observations per month. The GE technology records between 5,000 and 8,000 hand-washing events daily.

Dirksmeier said the success of the Summerville program has led GE to roll out the technology at five other hospitals nationwide. Trident Medical Center will be installing its system in the coming months.

The cost of implementing the program varies based on the number of patient rooms, staff size and amount of GE infrastructure already in place, Dirksmeier said. He estimates that an average hospital starting from scratch would have to pay $250,000 for the technology.

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