He Knows if You've Been Bad or Good ... at Washing Your Hands

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hand washing Supervisors at Birmingham's Baptist Princeton Medical Center know exactly how many times employees wash their hands. How? They've set up custom-designed electronic monitoring devices at hand washing and sanitizing stations. They read the code on your name tag, and it measures your stops.

Some say this is annoying micro-managing, while others claim it has decreased hospital-acquired infections by 22 percent. It has also increased hand-washing by 850 percent, according to figures printed on AL.com. There are stations near the entrance to each room and in various locations throughout the hospital, so there are plenty of opportunities to wash up.

The hand washing stations, designed by a company called Prevents, actually gives employees more incentive to wash their hands than just knowing they'll get in trouble if they don't do it often enough. Stations are accompanied by electronic screens at eye level that send you messages about cleanliness, gratitude, staff updates, patient status reports (they might even give you sports scores or a peek at CNN). They want you to stick around a few seconds longer and make sure your hands are really clean.

Those who are bothered by the impression that Big Brother is watching and monitoring their every move can't argue with the fact that the hospital saved about $145,00 in infection costs over the seven months that the stations were being tested. Over that same period, hand washings increased from 4,755 dispenses per month to 40,583 per month. The trial period was so successful, in fact, that supervisors plan on installing these stations throughout all the hospitals in their ownership group, and competing hospitals are considering installing them as well.

Perhaps it would be a good idea to install these monitors in restaurant washrooms as well.


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