Doctors aren’t washing their hands

New computer system detects unwashed hands


hygiene, bacterial infections, washing handsA newly developed computer system may help combat bacterial infections in hospitals.

The technology is being developed by a professor of computer science at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, in partnership with the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

Health care workers will wear badges and computer hardware will be attached to soap dispensers, beds and the doors of patients’ rooms, watching for unwashed hands. If a doctor, nurse, or technician forgets to wash up before entering the room, the badge will turn red and results will be instantly sent to nurses’ stations and multiple computers.

“It can track things in real time, and those things can easily be fixed — they can wash their hands,” Elke Rundensteiner, the professor of computer science who is developing the technology, said in an interview with the Telegram.

In addition to detecting unwashed hands, the technology could also be used in situations such as massive evacuations during natural disasters, re-routing medical personnel and water during emergencies.

It’s great that the problem of bacterial infections in hospitals is being addressed, but it’s kind of disturbing to think that doctors or any health care workers need a reminder to wash their hands. I thought infections due to unwashed hands was more of an 18th century kind of problem, before the invention of hygiene. At least those surgeons didn’t know any better. What excuse do today’s doctors have?

-Photo courtesy of Hygiene Matters


Doctors aren’t washing their hands

  1. Doctors wash their hands *all the time*. Moreover, just because someone is hospitalized does not imply that they’re carrying some dread pathogen easily passed from person to person. In any event, I wash my hands many, many times everyday, most frequently on rounds even if I’m just touching the drape. Rather than wasting scarce resources on some kind of Pavlov’s dog experiment, continue to invest in Purell/Manorapid dispensers in every room and hallway.

  2. Very informative article. In response to Josh….many health care professionals are not washing their hands…including Doctors. I work in a Hospital and have seen every profession need “Reminding” to do this very important task.
    People die all over the world from “Nosocomial Infections”. If everyone including the families of patients, would take the time to wash their hands properly before and after patient contact the term “Nosocomial” would be a thing of the past.
    I especially like what Scott wrote about “what excuse do the surgeons have now?” There is no excuse….

  3. “Many”? I’d say few if any. None that I’ve seen, and you can get I always wash my hands after examining a patient, and not just with Purell after doing a DRE.

    People will still get aspiration pneumonias and line infections and foley catheter-related UTIs. It is not just about washing hands, particularly given that central line and foley insertion are sterile procedures.

  4. Down playing this just makes the Doctors look guiltier :)

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