Research Highlights / Full Story

Frequent washing of the hands is one of the best ways to stop the spread of germs and prevent infection. In the sterile realm of a hospital, hand washing is an especially crucial routine for personnel in order to prevent the spread of diseases to patients who may have an increased susceptibility to germs.

An RIT-Rochester General Health System (RGHS) Alliance research team has been working on a project to monitor compliance with hand hygiene procedures. The project utilizes Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) technology in order to create a database to be used for evaluating the rates of compliance with hand hygiene procedures. These rates will then be correlated with the spread of diseases in the hospital. RFID is an electronic tag that is incorporated into an ID badge that can be sensed using radio waves for the purpose of identification and tracking.

Gill Tsouri, assistant professor of electrical engineering and director of the Communication Research Laboratory at RIT, and Dr. Ed Walsh, head of infectious diseases at Rochester General Hospital, have developed and tested a prototype system for use at RGH. They hope ultimately to use the technology to create a hospital-wide database of hand hygiene compliance as well as investigate additional applications for RFID systems in the health care industry.

"RFID systems are currently being deployed in health care facilities primarily for the purpose of equipment tracking," says Tsouri. "However, by modifying the algorithms and statistical tools used in the technology, we were able to track human behavior, in this case hand washing compliance, and collect data that could be used to improve hygiene procedures."

The project was a finalist for the 2011 RFID Journal Awards, which recognize projects that illustrate successful use of RFID technology or the introduction of a valuable new RFID product or service.