'Smart Shoes' Help Reduce Hospital Infections

June 11,2015

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that, in 2011, about 75,000 hospital patients in the U.S. died of causes related to healthcare-associated infections, or HAI for short. One French hospital is trying to lower the rate of infections by asking its staff to wear so-called ‘smart shoes.’

Hospitals need to be the epitome of cleanliness.

The problem is, harmful microorganisms are stubborn creatures able to find their way into even highly sterile environments such as hospital operating rooms.

One of the ways they get there is by hitching a ride on humans, especially on our hands.

That's no surprise, so at the Department of Infectious and Tropical Diseases in North Hospital, in Marseille, France, hydro-alcoholic solution dispensers are everywhere, The problem is that members of the staff, like nurse Lugdivine Gancia, aren't perfect, and sometimes they forget to wash their hands before touching a patient.

“Yes, because there are situations when we forget or we omit to do the hydro-alcoholic solution. When we bring in food trays, we don't always think about the hydro-alcoholic solution, "said Gancia.

Since 2013 the hospital has been testing a system, developed by French companies Micro BE and Ephygie-Hand, for tracking how often the staff uses sanitizer dispensers.

Department head Dr. Philippe Brouqui explains that radiofrequency identification chips, or RFIDs, are placed in soles of hospital shoes, while antennas are placed on the floor.

“The system knows that I'm on this antenna, I'm going to take here the hydro-alcoholic solution, it sends an impulse to the same system so we know that I took some alcohol," said Brouqui.

The system registers every time the dispenser is used and sends text messages to the staff about their compliance rate.

“Here is an sms [text message] sent every 15 days to two different groups in terms of shifts, that tells us our level of hand washing, not the exact level, but whether we have improved, if we haven't improved, or, on the contrary, if we've done worse," said Brouqui.

Brouqui says since the system was installed it has improved the level of compliance from 20 to almost 50 percent. His goal is to get it to 80 percent. He also dreams of setting up alarms that would go off whenever a member of staff approaches a patient before using the sanitary lotion dispenser.