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OhioHealth and IBM Connect to Prevent Hospital Infections

January 10, 2014
by Rajiv Leventhal
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The Columbus-based OhioHealth and IBM have collaborated to aid in the prevention of infections using wireless sensors and real-time big data analytics that measure hand-washing practices.

OhioHealth will use the technology to provide hospital administrators with real-time data that can be used to reduce healthcare associated infections (HAIs) like methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and costridium difficile, which affect one in every 20 patients in U.S. healthcare facilities.

Already, the pilot project in Columbus has achieved more than 90 percent compliance with hand-washing standards—a 20 percent jump over its previous practices, and well above the 50 percent national compliance level.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that nearly two million U.S. patients contract HAIs each year, and 90,000 die as a result.  HAIs are also estimated to cost the U.S. healthcare system $4.5 billion in related medical expenses every year.  Hand hygiene is cited as the most effective way to prevent the spread of HAIs, and hospitals are aggressively working to elevate hand washing compliance to 100 percent.

Analyzing hand-washing data gives stakeholders deep insights into the compliance levels of different departments, shifts, job roles, as well as variations based on other social behavioral factors, OhioHealth officials say. The real-time information is used to alert hospital personnel when proper hygiene habits are not being followed so that corrective action can be taken to reduce germ exposure to patients.

The IBM customized technology was recently deployed at an OhioHealth hospital in Columbus.  The system is installed at all hand-washing stations and measures the hand-washing compliance of hospital staff through radio frequency identification (RFID) technology that is integrated with a mesh network of wireless sensors that collect data that is then analyzed by IBM's system.  The system has improved the quality and accuracy of tracking data and delivers compliance information to hospital administrators 100 times faster than the hospital's previous surveillance methods, OhioHealth officials say.

"Superbugs like MRSA can live for hours on surfaces, and we want to do everything we can to protect our patients from these kinds of serious infections,” Michael Krouse, senior vice president and CIO, OhioHealth, said in a statement. “Working with IBM, we will gain additional insights that will help us consistently achieve total compliance with hand-washing standards and fight back against these bugs."

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