Low Tech vs. High Tech: Hand Hygiene’s Role in Infection Control (i.e. Glo Germ vs Automatic Monitoring Systems for Hand Washing)

posted Aug 3, 2011, 1:31 PM by Todd Fox   [ updated Sep 24, 2016, 8:34 AM ]

Technology keeps increasing in the infection control industry, but is more technology the answer to a healthier future within health care organizations?  Specifically, is hand washing better accomplished with periodic preventative campaigns or with systems that give real-time compliance results? 

 

For ease of reference, we are calling preventative campaigns “low tech” and automatic hand-hygiene systems “high tech.”  Both solutions focus on the end goal, to increase hand-hygiene compliance and reduce HAIs (Hospital Acquired Infections); however, they approach the problem in two differing ways.  Low tech tries to change behaviors before tasks are undertaken; whereas, high technology tries to change behaviors based on REAL-TIME verification.

 

Some providers of low tech and high tech solutions have been identified and are listed below.  We added a “middle tech” category because some are on the fence with the two solutions. 

 

Low Tech Providers: 

Glo Germ, Glitterbug, germBLING™, Cleaning Detective

 

Middle Tech Providers:

Sprixx, Tellaview ® Interactive Wall Display

 

High Tech Providers:

Safe-Hands® (Hygiene Monitoring Systems)

Hill-Rom® (Hand-Hygiene Compliance Solution)

UltraClenz (Patient Safeguard System ™)

Sani-Track (RFID Hygiene Verification and Reporting System)

HandyMetrics Corporation (HandyAudit®)

HandGiene Corp.

 

So, which solution is better?  Low tech because it increases the “care” factor and leaves a deep-rooted impression of the importance of hand-hygiene?  High tech because it keeps people in line with real-time verification- not wanting their name to show up on a noncompliance list?  Since low tech is well known and has been around for years, let’s look at the pros and cons of automatic hand-hygiene systems.

 

Pros

  • Potentially get new health care professionals trained in hygiene norms faster through tracking
  • More data is received (multiple stations) in reports and graphs
  • Better quality data than observation or self-reporting (more accurate)
  • Ability to receive results quicker (electronic in contrast to paper reports uploaded)
  • Easily configured reports (quick to make charts, splice data for the different stations, etc.)
  • Everyone is judged the same (no discrimination by the system based on tenure or designation)
  • Opens employees up to using more technology in the future
  • May tailor nicely with newer generations of health care professionals

 

Cons

  • Less focus is on the reason for hand hygiene (disease info, particle profiles, etc.)
  • More focus on the numbers for each station
  • Less emotional connection to hygiene
  • Potential fear based system
  • Organization may be seen as being “Big Brother”
  • Potential mentality shift to task orientation rather than overall responsibility to maintain high level of care
  • Alienate older working generation depending on system sophistication levels

 

The pros and cons list is not exhaustive.  If you have more to add we would be happy to do a follow up post and include your opinion to further educate the infection control community.  The pros and cons seem to be pretty even for the automatic systems, showing many trade-offs.  What are you opinions?  Write in for our follow up piece [here].

 

Health care professionals just starting their careers usually acclimate quicker to higher levels of technology.  Regardless of the drawbacks of automatic hand-hygiene systems, the rise in new health care professionals lately may aid in the proliferation of automatic systems.  However, the health care job pool is currently made up primarily of individuals that have spent most their careers in hospitals, clinics and other health oriented organizations.   

 

Like in many situations, there might be a mutiny brewing in an organization near you.  Because automatic systems have been described as “Big Brother” like (using fear of being found out above personal responsibility), it may take time for the systems to be fully embraced.  Not that we are predicting that your workers will revolt, but you may see morale drop. 

 

Not to give a flabby answer, but it really depends on the situation.  We recommend using low tech solutions until the ratio of newer employees reaches a significant level.  In addition, low tech solutions should be used with high tech solutions to offset the focus on just obtaining numbers.  Using low tech in conjunction with high tech will help keep employees emotionally in touch with the effects of infections. 

 

Time will tell which solution is best as more facilities continually adopt systems and change training processes accordingly.  Whether you like it or not- these high technologies are coming to a workplace near you.  It will be interesting to see whether high tech replaces low tech solutions or if they just become more sophisticated tools.  Tune in as we continually monitor this subject.

 

For questions, please contact us.


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