New gadget reminds doctors, nurses to wash their hands

NEW YORK — There's no denying that keeping your hands clean is the easiest way to avoid spreading germs.

But when doctors and nurses are rushing from patient to patient, remembering to wash is easier said than done.

"In a busy day, a lot of distractions, you might forget to wash your hands," said SUNY Downstate Epidemiology & Infection Control Director Robert Gwizdala.

Across the country, almost 2 million patients contract infections while in the hospital every year.

Which is why the medical center is using a state of the art device known as BioVigil to remind staff members to clean their hands.

"This provides us the ability to track hand hygiene for the benefit of the patient and for the healthcare workers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week," said Gwizdala.

Each time a person wearing the device enters or leaves a patient's room, they pass through an in the sensor turns from green to yellow.

The device sets off small beep to remind the person it's time to clean their hands.

"Washing your hands in the hospital, or even outside of the hospital is one of the best things you can do to decrease infections," said President Wanye J. Riley, M.D. "And we know with this system we will be able to dramatically drop the rate of hospital acquired infections that occur just because we don't wash our hands as thoroughly."

Sensors by the sink alert the device when a person has washed their hands for 20 seconds or the wearer can use an alcohol based sanitizer then cover the badge. The badge senses the alcohol using technology similar to a breathalyzer. If the badge fails to detect the proper hand hygiene it turns red after a minute and vibrates.

SUNY Downstate is the first hospital in New York City to use the technology, which could reduce infection rates by up to 70 percent.

"I think that going into the future, with the technology being so available, it is going to be one of the ways of how we do things, how we do business," said Dr. Mafuzur Rahman, Vice Chairman of the Department of Internal Medicine.

It's reassuring news for the 70,000 plus patients like Steven Lowery who visit the hospital each year.

"It's nice to see the people that's taking care of you practicing clean hands," said Lowery. "You have no idea how many people touched that doorknob coming in and out of here."