If I hear of one more wearable device that tracks heart rate or sleep or respiration rate, I am going to have a meltdown.
Making products for the worried well as venture capitalist Wende Hutton so succinctly puts it, as opposed to people who are really ill, seems to be a gross misuse of powerful technology that the human race has developed.
But two companies are deciding that they want to tackle big problems in healthcare using wearables. The problem in this case is healthcare-associated infections.
According to the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths, a nonprofit educational campaign, more than 100,000 people in the U.S. die each year because of HAIs. Each year roughly 2 million HAIs occur nationwide and the total additional cost of treating them is a staggering $30.5 billion.
Gainesville, Florida-based HyGreen and Ann Arbor, Michigan-based Biovigil are two companies that are taking a stab at finding a simple solution to this intractable problem using wearable, mobile and sensor technology.
Hygreen's Hand Hygeine Reminding and Recording System comprises three parts - a badge worn by providers, a hand washing sensor placed next to a sanitizer dispenser and a bedside hygeine monitor. A provider walking into a patient's room walks up to a sanitizer dispensor and cleans his or her hand. As soon as that occurs, the hand wash sensor lights up green to record a "compliant event" in the HyGreen database. The badge worn by the provider also lights up and as he or she approaches the patient, a bedside monitor recognizes the green light of the badge and records the event.
If the healthcare provider forgets to use the sanitizer dispenser and approches the patient's bed, the badge vibrates prompting him or her to follow proper hand hygeine. But if the person continues to ignore the alers, the third vibration causes the event to be recorded as a noncompliant event. -
Hospital adminstrators get detailed reports categorized by department, hand wash stations and even the individual healthcare worker.
Biovigil's system seems to incorporate a similar concept but with an additional step. It asks that any healthcare worker entering a room and using the dispenser raise his or her in front of the badge in order for it to illuminate green. When the hand sanitizer is not detected, the badge glows red. The badge also records information and transfers the hygeine data to a wireless base station.
Here is a video of the Biovigil system at work.
There is tremendous excitement around wearables and what it can achieve in healthcare. Taking it from the realm of tracking and health and fitness, and moving it to a clinical environment where it matters most, may be the logical and most meaningful use of such technology.
[Photo Credit: istockphoto.com user Eraxion]