From India, monitors keep an eye on doctors in US hospital
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At North Shore University Hospital on Long Island, motion sensors go off every time someone enters an intensive care room. The sensor triggers a video camera, which transmits its images to India, where workers are checking to see if doctors and nurses are performing a critical procedure: washing their hands.
The approach is one of the efforts to promote a basic tenet of infection prevention — hand-hygiene. Studies have shown that hospital workers wash their hands only 30 per cent of the time that they interact with patients.
In addition to the video snooping, hospitals across the country are training hand-washing coaches, handing out rewards like free pizza and coffee coupons, and admonishing with "red cards." They are using radio-frequency ID chips that note when a doctor has passed by a sink, and undercover monitors, who blend in with the other white coats, to watch whether their colleagues are washing their hands for the requisite 15 seconds.
All this effort is to coax workers into using more soap and water, or alcohol-based sanitisers. "This is not a quick fix; this is a war," said Dr. Bruce Farber, chief of infectious disease at North Shore. But the incentive to do something is strong: under new federal rules, hospitals will lose Medicare money when patients get preventable infections.
One puzzle is why health care workers are so bad at it. Philip Liang, who founded a company, General Sensing, that outfits hospital workers with electronic badges that track hand-washing, attributes low compliance to "high cognitive load."
"Nurses have to remember hundreds — thousands — of procedures," Liang said. "It's really easy to forget the basic tasks. You're really concentrating on what's difficult, not on what's simple."
His company uses a badge that communicates with a sensor on sanitisers and soap dispensers, and with a beacon behind the patient's bed. If the wearer's hands are not cleaned, the badge vibrates so that the health care worker is reminded but not humiliated in front of the patient.