Hospital staff disinfects hands at a dispenser
Digital helpers in hospitals

A Step Towards Better Compliance? The Automation of Hand Hygiene

Mission: Infection Prevention and Thomas Kant in the discourse on digital compliance

In conversation with Senior Digital Venture Architect Thomas Kant

Digital systems are a professional and contemporary alternative to traditional analogue observation and a great time saver for staff.

Automated hand hygiene systems enable better compliance and higher hygiene standards in hospitals. But what are the operational learning curves?

An interview with Thomas Kant, Sr. Digital Venture Architect at BODE/HARTMANN, about the motivation behind as well as application areas and strategies of digital compliance solutions.

Thomas Kant, Senior Digital Venture Architect
Thomas Kant, Senior Digital Venture Architect
"Anything that helps the hospital prevent infections will always be a top priority."

How can digital solutions improve hand hygiene in hospitals?

The WHO has defined five moments of hand hygiene after which nurses should disinfect their hands. Realistically, these moments are not always met due to lack of staff or time. Traditionally, hand hygiene compliance is observed through direct observation.

The problem with that: If I observe someone directly, I change the observed result. At the same time, this is very labour intensive.

That's why digital solutions that automatically measure compliance can be a step towards relieving hospitals. Hand hygiene compliance is automatically recorded and evaluated 24/7, so that more data is available to the hospital and transparency is created.

The five moments of hand hygiene according to the WHO
The five moments of hand hygiene according to the WHO

What methods are available for digital observation of hand hygiene?

Technologically, there are many possibilities. This can be done in the classic way via Bluetooth sensors or RFID chips. These are used, for example, to equip disinfection dispensers to measure when someone disinfects their hands.

Meanwhile, some publications and scientific studies have examined digital solutions and show that such systems work in everyday hospital life. The recording of hand hygiene compliance is just as accurate as with manual observation. However, electronically recorded compliance is shown to be 30-40% lower than compliance with manual observation.

How many hospitals are already using digital helpers to record compliance in hand hygiene?

Currently, the ratio of hospitals using this type of solutions is still far too low.

This is also due to the fact that such solutions are often associated with high costs. However, there is a growing interest in holistic digital solutions, and more and more providers are entering the market with such offers. The corona pandemic in particular has once again brought digitalisation issues in hospitals into sharper focus.

First and foremost, anything that helps the hospital prevent infections will always be a top priority.

Is there a guide for implementing digital compliance measurement in hospitals?

First of all, you have to identify for which wards such a solution makes sense. Furthermore, you have to consider how staff members work on these wards, i.e. how the solution has to be adapted to the given working conditions.

In addition, successful integration includes consideration of the hospital staff. Ideally, you should talk openly with your staff before the implementation to address any concerns in advance. For example, concerns about data protection and the privacy of staff can be allayed with a convincing concept for anonymisation and confidentiality of data. Supplementary, comprehensive and early training of employees is necessary, which conveys the functionality and, above all, the added value of such a solution.

Finally, it has to be decided how the data will be used. In my opinion, this is the most important thing for the sustainability of such a solution - that it is made clear in which processes this data will be incorporated, how it will be fed back to employees and how it can ultimately contribute to process optimisation.

Important steps for successful implementation:

1. Define added value: Which solution makes sense on which ward? What are the respective processes and regulations for hand disinfection?

2. Install project manager: A leading point person for staff who builds trust and coordinates all internal activities

3. Involve employees: The project manager should communicate with staff early on about the anticipated implementation

4. Transparency of results: Feed results/key learnings back to staff, discuss together and set goals to sustainably increase hand hygiene

Where do you see obstacles to the acceptance of such a solution?

I definitely believe that trust and transparency are essential. The worst thing that could happen is that employees feel they are being monitored. When that happens, a system like this has already lost. Because from that point on, it is either no longer used or somehow circumvented.

Basically, everyone who works in a hospital has an intrinsic motivation to do the best for the patients. You have to honour that by maintaining transparency and involving staff every step of the way.

Digital solutions must also have a tangible added value for the staff. I believe this is what both doctors and users will focus on much more. What are the benefits of these solutions in everyday work, and how do they help to improve care for patients?

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