(Article by Michelle Mc. Donagh, Published in The Irish Times 7th April 2012)
HEALTHCARE: AN INNOVATIVE hand-washing e-training system developed by a small Irish company forms part of a new global hand hygiene campaign announced by the World Health Organisation (WHO) during the weekend aimed at reducing deaths from hospital acquired infections (IFAs).
The Surewash computer-based system, developed over five years by Trinity College spin-off company, Glanta Ltd, uses cutting-edge camera and game technology to deliver effective, flexible hand hygiene training to healthcare workers.
Despite the huge efforts made globally to tackle the problem of hospital acquired infections, HAIs affect 5 to 11 per cent of hospital patients and are a major cause of death and disability. The WHO compares the number of people dying from preventable HAIs to a 747 aircraft full of passengers crashing every two days. They estimate that 50 per cent of these infections could be prevented through better hand hygiene, saving billions of euro every year.
As part of a major new public health awareness campaign, the WHO has set up a structure of Private Organisations for Patients Safety (POPs) made up of some of the largest multi-billion dollar companies in the world involved in hand hygiene and infection control. One of the smallest members of this organisation and the only Irish one is Glanta with their Surewash product.
Sean Bay, chief executive of Glanta, which is based at Trinity Enterprise Centre, explains that Surewash is a mobile hand hygiene training and measurement system that evaluates compliance against the WHO hand hygiene standard and provides infection control staff with a complete audit trail of training.
“The system delivers hand hygiene training on a very personal level. It’s very hard to tell somebody who has been working in healthcare for 20 years that their hand hygiene is not up to scratch, but this system provides an independent assessment and allows staff to be trained in only minutes at any time of the day or night.”
Mr Bay stresses that the goal of the Surewash system is to assist people to achieve best practice in hand hygiene, not to try to catch people out. The technology was developed by co-founder of Glanta, inventor Gerry Lacey, a senior lecturer at Trinity College.
The system was trialled in Beaumont Hospital, Dublin, and by the UK Department of Health in the Mid Essex NHS Trust, UK. Hand hygiene rates per patient day increased by 156 per cent and compliance with technique increased 703 per cent.
The Mater Private in Dublin was the first hospital to take on the Surewash system and has been followed by Our Lady’s Hospitals in Navan and Drogheda. Mr Bay is hoping to expand further not only in the hospital setting but into industry, medical schools and even into primary schools to teach children how to wash their hands properly.