A smart bracelet to help reduce hospital-acquired infections

By March 26, 2013
doctors washing their hands

IntelligentM is a smart bracelet which helps hospitals improve hand hygiene compliance, and hopes to reduce healthcare-acquired infections. The bracelet monitors and guides medical practitioners’ hand hygiene behaviour, and collects useful data for management.


Every year, the United States healthcare system spends over $35 million treating patients suffering from infections picked up in the healthcare environment. On average hospitals spend around 10% of their annual operating budget fighting these ‘healthcare-acquired infections’, which can be life-threatening: one person in twenty admitted to hospital will acquire an infection while being treated, and almost 100,000 a year die from these infections. This figure is higher than the number of deaths occurring annually in the US from prostate and breast cancer combined. According to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 70% of these infections could be eliminated if healthcare staff followed hand hygiene guidelines properly. That’s where the IntelligentM smart bracelet comes in: it has been designed to enforce healthcare practitioners’ hand hygiene standards in order to reduce the risk of patient infection.

Replacing traditional methods by a more reliable electronic system…

IntelligentM is intended to replace the old-fashioned visual method with simple, accurate technology. Monitoring of hand hygiene practices is currently carried out by specific staff whose job it is to assess medical personnel on an ad hoc basis. The weakness of this approach is twofold: firstly the results can be seriously distorted as hospital staff tend to adjust their behaviour when an assessor is in the vicinity; and secondly it does not enable data to be collected, so the hospital cannot carry out any useful analysis. IntelligentM on the other hand provides a system for ongoing employee-monitoring and will warn the wearer if s/he is not following standard hand hygiene procedures properly. The bracelet is equipped to react when close to an RFID tag placed on one of the washbasins. The bracelet tracks the healthcare workers’ hand motions as they wash their hands, and assesses whether the guidelines laid down for washing procedures are being followed. The bracelet vibrates to inform the healthcare worker when the hand hygiene procedure has been properly executed or alert him/her that the washing procedure was inadequate. All the data for each bracelet wearer are recorded.

…Reducing risks to patients and costs for the US healthcare system

The data collected are used to analyse when individual healthcare practitioners wash their hands and how well they perform the procedure. An epidemiologist or hospital director can therefore identify which practitioners are complying with the standards set, and which are not (calculating that a given nurse is for example 82% or 56% compliant with proper hand hygiene standards) and assess which departments or which links in the treatment chain are risk factors. The system also helps staff to improve their hygiene performance in real time, and should help them to change their behaviour in the longer term. The IntelligentM solution to hand hygiene compliance is far easier to run than current monitoring systems in place at hospitals, and is likely both to save lives and achieve major cost savings for US hospitals and the healthcare system as a whole.

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