Georgia Trend: Driving Behavior Change

Georgia Trend: Driving Behavior Change

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Proper hand hygiene – whether washing with soap or using hand sanitizer – is a big deal for healthcare facilities because it’s one of the most effective ways to prevent costly and sometimes deadly healthcare-associated infections (HAIs).

While healthcare professionals agree that hand hygiene is crucial to preventing infections, they get busy and sometimes forget this basic practice. Fortunately, one Georgia company now has a nonintrusive solution to drive behavior change by providing caregivers a simple reminder to wash their hands.

Atlanta-based Clean Hands Safe Hands (CHSH) developed technology that improves and monitors healthcare providers’ hand hygiene compliance via four components: a lightweight badge that identifies the wearer, a secure wireless network connection, sensors mounted on existing soap and sanitizer dispensers that identify each hand hygiene event and deliver a vocal reminder if the individual fails to clean his or her hands, and software that reports and analyzes real-time data from the network.

“I started working with a physician at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA) about 10 years ago when I was in grad school,” says Chris Hermann, CHSH founder and CEO. “We came together around what we thought was a simple concept – to develop a way to improve hand hygiene. That became the running joke as we realized there are so many different things [healthcare] providers do throughout their day, that simple technology was not an option.”

With specific hygiene protocols for different levels of patient care in a variety of settings, he discovered a one-size fits-all approach wasn’t feasible.

During the next seven years, Hermann’s research collaboration grew to include team members from Georgia Tech, Emory University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in addition to CHOA. With state and federal grants, he continued to develop CHSH, working closely with healthcare clinicians.

“Three years ago, wireless technology caught up to what the clinicians were asking for, and we were able to meet their needs,” he says. “Also, the financial reimbursement around HAIs changed, and they quickly became a huge cost [for healthcare facilities], with increased fines for infections. That was one of the biggest drivers of our commercial success.”

Over time, the company moved from Hermann’s dining table to Georgia Tech’s Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) in Midtown Atlanta. The CHSH solution is now in 10 hospitals across the U.S., and Hermann expects that number to grow to 20 by year end.

CHSH is also part of an Emory-CDC study to prevent the spread of diseases. It’s deployed at Emory hospitals in John’s Creek and Midtown, where it has become part of the largest-ever and most comprehensive hand hygiene study using electronic technology.

“We are a direct cost saver for hospitals,” Hermann says. “Without our technology, hospitals could spend $10,000 per bed per year on infections, and that’s before fines. We’re using the power of technology to help drive behavior change.”

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Mary Ann DeMuth

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