You’d think it would be common practice these days for everyone to regularly wash their hands, especially if they work in the health-care profession. Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care advises that frequent handwashing is “the single most effective way to prevent the spread of communicable diseases.” (Cooties are the obvious exception here, since they can only be prevented by administering a cootie shot.) Unfortunately, the statistics indicate that health-care workers aren’t very diligent about soaping up.
In fact, according to a recent CBC story, “studies have shown that health-care workers wash their hands on average only about 30 to 40 per cent of the time. And physicians on rounds are among the worst offenders.” To be fair, the article notes that health-care workers can often be required to clean their hands up to 150 times per day, which is slightly more than the few times per day you wash your hands after you accidentally touch the pole on the subway or press the “ground floor” button on the elevator. (It’s filthy.)
The good news is that the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute has developed a new technology that can be used by health-care workers to help remind them that, hey, it’s been a while since they’ve washed up, and their hands have been in some pretty unmentionable places. The health-care worker wears a device around their neck, and when they are in close proximity to a patient’s bed (which is equipped with sensors), the device will beep to remind the worker if their hands haven’t been washed. The device also provides a cleaning agent for the worker if they are unable to easily access soap and water.
Considering how crucial handwashing is in preventing the spread of infections throughout hospitals, this is a welcome innovation. The CBC story notes that “the Community and Hospital Infection Control Association of Canada estimates 8,000 Canadians die from hospital-acquired infections every year. This amounts to 22 people a day.”
Since we’re talking about cleanliness here, it’s probably also best if you try not to consider how absolutely dirty and disgusting your computer’s keyboard is. (Hint: It’s dirtier than a toilet seat. Why yes, that is gross!) You’re just itching to wash your hands now, aren’t you? Go on, then.
Photo by 96dotsperinch.