doctor handwashing in a hospital sink

New technologies, including electronic and video hand hygiene monitoring systems, can support hand-washing initiatives by providing continuous and objective data.

Electronic monitoring systems can range from simple systems that track the number of times that soap or hand sanitizer is dispensed, to more complex systems that provide data on when and where sanitizer is being dispensed

Monitoring systems can consist of sensors in personnel badges or dispensers.

Some can also provide real-time reminders to staff such as a vibration if a healthcare worker enters or exits a patient’s room without activating the soap dispenser.

For instance, a nurse at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, N. Y. walks into a patient room, the first thing he should do is use a hand sanitizer.

After using hand sanitizer, he puts his hand over a small sensor called a BioVigil, which senses that the sanitizer was used, according to an article on the CBS New York website.

If the nurse sanitized his hands the mobile monitor beeps and turns green.

The installation of the system has reduced hospital-acquired infections, Dr. Mafuzur Rahman, the Chief Technology Officer at SUNY Downstate, said in the article.

The key to the system is infrared sensors installed outside every patient room and at hand-washing sinks. They detect when a badge-wearing staff member has washed their hands. If it’s been a while since hand washing, it turns yellow. If it's been too long, the sensor turns red.

Systems like these can be effective in improving hand hygiene compliance and reducing the incidence of hospital acquired infections.

The technology can create an enhanced "Hawthorne effect" as healthcare workers realize that they are being constantly monitored. The Hawthorne effect — also sometimes referred to as the observer effect — describes a phenomenon in which someone modifies their behavior in response to an awareness of being observed.