When you’re ankle-deep in implementing high-tech health IT solutions to improve the quality of patient care, it can be easy to forget that it’s the low-tech solutions — like hand washing — that often have the biggest impact on patient outcomes. But one of the great benefits of health IT solutions is their ability to be integrated with low-tech strategies to give them an even bigger impact.
The “Putting Power into Healthcare” initiative (PPHI), announced this week, integrates health IT with hand washing in an effort to help cut down on health care-associated infections. The initiative brings together Alabama Power, Birmingham-based Proventix Systems, Inc. and 27 hospitals across the state of Alabama.
The hospitals have installed a system provided by Proventix that uses active communication units and radio-frequency badges tied to a data and compliance monitoring system to measure how often the badged employees wash their hands. The system is installed in patient rooms and other places where care is provided.
It sounds a bit like Big Brother, but according to a 7-month study performed using the system at Princeton Baptist Medical Center in Birmingham, infection rates dropped 22 percent in the unit where the system was installed.
“We have an opportunity to improve the delivery of care through collaboration among healthcare workers and standardized processes,” said Proventix’s chief executive officer Harvey Nix in a press release. “This effort is focused not only on infection prevention, but on quality care driven through effective communications,” he added.
It’s great when health IT solutions lead to better patient outcomes, but there’s always a price tag attached.
For health care CIOs, such a system could mean more equipment to manage and troubleshoot and more data to store. For providers it could bring more changes to workflow.
Of course, for patients it could bring fewer hospital-acquired infections, and it’s pretty hard to put a price tag on that. Or maybe you can — the team at Princeton Baptist estimated the health cost savings realized from the lower rate of infections to be more than $133,000.