Hospitals are places where people go to get well. But, they're also places where people can get sick. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 2,000,000 people contract hospital-borne infections in the U.S. each year, like MRSA, Staph and C-dif. Omar Badreddin - a computer scientist at Northern Arizona University - believes that's because people don't clean their hands often enough. So he's developed a smart device that can track the number of times hospital staff use hand sanitizer.
"The sanitizer communicates with the phone or the badge of the staff member," Badreddin says. "It communicates through the Wi-Fi signal to update our database saying that this person used the sanitizer at this time."
Badreddin and his team of student researchers are working with Flagstaff Medical Center to install test dispensers in the hospital.
Badreddin says, "Hospitals today do not know how often people are using hand sanitization or washing their hands. It's too expensive to monitor. You cannot have someone sit on the floor and watch who's using it and who's not using it. Besides," he adds, "it's uncomfortable for everyone to see that someone is watching."
He hopes to raise awareness about the importance of hand washing and, ultimately, prevent sickness and deaths caused by these types of infections.
"There are ten times as many people who die from infections than from all car accidents," Badreddin says. "So, we are a society, and we evolve to take care of car accidents by air bags, seatbelts, car seats. But we don't really value infection as much, even though it causes much more number of deaths each year."
Testing of the new hand sanitizer smart devices is expected to begin this spring.