SureWash brings social gaming and e-learning techniques into hospitals in a bid to improve hand hygiene habits.

[WoHIT] Hand Hygiene Being Taught in Hospitals via Social Gaming

Infections contracted in hospital are proven to be more deadly than cancer, heart attacks or diabetes. According to the World Health Organisation, around 1.4 million people worldwide suffer hospital-acquired infections. In an effort to solve this problem, Irish startup Glanta Ltd has come up with the SureWash technology, which was one of the contestants at the EU E-Health Competition 2014 Final at the World of Health IT ( WoHIT 2014) conference that took place in the French city of Nice on 2-4 April. SureWash was placed second in the ‘Promises’ category (for companies with turnover of less than €500,000). This ICT-based solution for promoting hand hygiene with a view to reducing infections in hospitals comprises a trolley on wheels equipped with a screen and a camera to film in real time the movements of a person washing his/her hands, using an approach based on social gaming techniques.

ICT and gaming to promote hand hygiene

As a first step the SureWash software gives on-screen advice on the precise procedure medical staff should follow each time they wash their hands. The hospital employee is asked to perform the prescribed gestures (known as ‘poses’) in front of the camera. As with Kinect technology, the camera then analyses the employee’s hand movements in detail and measures them via a gaming platform. The recorded movements are then relayed to a touch screen, providing the user with personalised feedback on the quality of his/her hand-washing technique and the extent of compliance with the ‘poses’ demonstrated by the software. If the user passes the test, s/he may move on to the next stage. If not, s/he is required to repeat the gestures, which is an incentive to follow the prescribed rules.  This is regarded as a very serious matter, since hand hygiene has become EU standard practice, with a series of precise hand gestures which hospital staff are required to follow. “We’ve taken gaming technology and used it to systematise hand hygiene procedures, making them more engaging and interesting,” explained Gerry Lacey, a co-founder of Glanta Ltd, which has patents for the technology granted in Europe and the United States.

Alternative approach to training

In fact many healthcare establishments invest in training in order to raise awareness of hand hygiene among their staff, but “it’s rather a boring subject,” points out Gerry Lacey, adding: “The objective of the SureWash application is to take training out of the classroom,” which will enable medical establishments to make savings on their training budgets and still obtain better results. However the real boon of the Glanta approach is the social gaming platform. SureWash allows you to form teams which can then “compare their results – nurses against doctors, and so on,” explains Gerry Lacey.  Meanwhile, “the clinical impact has been extraordinary,” with rates of compliance with hand hygiene standards increasing by an average of 700%, claims the Glanta co-founder.

By Eliane HONG