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Cold & Flu Season is Upon Us: Why One Way to Prevent Germ Spread Lies at Your Fingertips

It’s that time of year, again. With the cold and flu season well under way, the chances of falling ill drastically increase. Whether you’re at work or the supermarket, germs are transferring from person to person via a doorknob or faucet handle, causing infection to spread.

Overall, about 80% of infectious diseases, like the flu, are transmitted by touch.*  Flu viruses are spread mainly from person to person through droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze, or talk. Flu viruses can also spread when people touch something and then touch their mouth, eyes, or nose.**

Unfortunately, the transfer of cold and flu viruses can happen right in the hospital. On average, 200,000 Americans are hospitalized each year because of flu complications. Likewise, 1 in 20 patients get a Hospital Acquired Infection (HAI) and 99,000 people die annually from HAIs in the United States alone. Yet, the simple act of handwashing can help hospitals prevent the spread of bacterial and viral infections like the flu.***

GE Healthcare’s AgileTrac Hand Hygiene technology enables hospitals to accurately record, measure, and report hand washing data throughout their facility, all with little or no changes to workflow. Individual staff interactions with a soap or hand-sanitizer dispenser are automatically captured and recorded using Real Time Location System (RTLS) technology.

The CDC says that hand washing is the single most important means of preventing potentially fatal infections from spreading from patient to patient to healthcare worker and vice versa. However, a World Health Organization report says that the average hand hygiene compliance rate of healthcare workers is only 38.7%. The majority of hospitals are using direct observation to track hand washing even though they are not satisfied with the reliability of the data.**** Healthcare workers are unaware that the use of data and technology can help their facility reduce infection as well as improve patient safety and workflow.

AgileTrac’s use of data + analytics captures hand washing opportunities across the hospital and records behaviors, avoiding observer bias. So while AgileTrac is recording data, it also measures hand hygiene compliance among nurses, physicians, and other hospital staff. The detailed data can identify potentially, missed opportunities for hand washing, thereby encouraging clinicians to modify their behavior when dealing with patients. This can help prevent flu viruses or other infectious diseases from spreading across the patient floor, waiting room, or cafeteria of the hospital. Such a small change in behavior can mean that one less patient receives a hospital acquired infection or experiences flu-like symptoms.

HCA’s Summerville Medical Center has certainly benefited. Since adopting GE’s hand hygiene technology, they have seen major improvements in patient safety and compliance. They began piloting the technology in the spring of 2012 and implemented the system in their ICU, medical surgery units, and the ER. They have since completed the one-year pilot program, and now the automated system collects 5,000 data points a day vs. 700 per year with previous manual observation. The collection of data points and real-time tracking brings Summerville one step closer in stopping the spread of infection throughout the hospital.

The AgileTrac technology accumulates data and analysis to improve patient safety and compliance procedures. The use of data taps into GE Healthcare’s exploration into the possibilities of the Industrial Internet—an open global network that connects machines, people and data to remove $150B in waste from major industries like Healthcare.



* – Infection Control Today.
** – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
*** – 
**** – World Health Organization – Hand Hygiene.