from the beeeeep! dept
Researchers have invented a device (via the Raw Feed) to remind hospital workers to wash their hands between patients. Bad hygiene is a serious problem in hospitals, because diseases can be spread from patient to patient. Unfortunately, doctors and nurses are often in a hurry and forget to wash up. The device tries to increase washing rates by installing infrared sensors over patient beds. When a health care worker comes near a patient, the system will try to detect whether the health care worker has washed his hands since seeing the last patient, and beeps if he has not. It's a clever idea, but it seems to have a few problems. For one thing, it sounds like it only detects when a worker has disinfected using special alcohol dispensers included with the system. A soap and water washing doesn't count, as far as the system is concerned. It also can't detect if a health care worker has gone near a patient but not touched him or her. The big problem such a system would face is having health care workers view it as an annoyance rather than an asset. If the system frequently beeped at them when they weren't doing anything wrong, they might start ignoring or even trying to disable it.
I think the key to making it work would be to make sure hospital workers view it as a helpful way to improve their own performance rather than a way of nagging them or penalizing them when they forget to wash their hands. Wearing the things would be irritating enough without having to worry about getting disciplined when the system made a mistake. One good approach might be to allow workers to disable the beeping feature, but continue collecting data about hand-washing rates. Even if the data weren't perfect, it would be good enough to collect data on hygiene rates in different parts of the hospital. Those parts that showed lower-than-average hygiene could receive additional training.