Busting Docs Who Don’t Wash Their Hands

Here’s an interesting method of combating the hand-hygiene problem discussed at length in SuperFreakonomics: “A doctor enters a hospital room to examine a patient, but neglects to wash her hands. A special badge on her lab coat turns a deep shade of red as wireless computer components in the door, the soap dispenser and near the bed immediately relay information about the unwashed hands.?The doctor is busted.” The system is part of an upcoming pilot program at the UMass Medical School, spearheaded by Elke Rundensteiner, a computer science professor at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. “It can track things in real time, and those things can easily be fixed – they can wash their hands,” says Rundensteiner. (HT: Eric M. Jones) [%comments]


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  1. Ian Callum says:

    If this ever happens, then patients will be billed for time spent washing hands. A charge for Digital Prophylactic Disinfection (DPD) will appear on statements.

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  2. Ellen says:

    why is the doctor in this scenario “she”, when the large majority of doctors, and presumably non-hand-washers, are men?

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  3. dvh says:

    If this really works, it should be installed in every U.S. hospital in the country. It is shocking how many patients contract serious staph infections while in the hospitals here, even during brief visits. My neighbor, who is battling cancer, went to a local hospital of renown here in NYC for a 2 day stay over and is now infected with MRSA, apparently the worse staph infection there is. He may end up dying from the staph while his cancer abates. He said he noticed, on several occasions, that doctors did not wash their hands as they left his room and suspects they didn’t wash them before entering either. There is something downright criminal about this.

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  4. Joel Margolese says:

    Ellen- trends in medicine are changing. I don’t have the stats, have seen several articles, in many medical schools, there more women than men. (I know, I should have stats for this column…) Now, whether they continue to practice and we see that ratio 15 or 20 years out is still an open question.

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  5. Nina says:

    @dvh: criminal is the right word. It’s not like washing your hands is that much of a hassle!
    I like the control system!

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  6. david says:

    >> ‘ why is the doctor in this scenario “she” … ? [etc.] ‘

    OMG, you gotta love touchy hair-trigger Times readers. This is the best LOL thing I have read in a week. I actually suspect it was written by a guy!

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  7. Dr Know says:

    All you need to do is write about the inefficiencies of doctors and you have a large crowd gleefully commenting on that. What makes healthcare topics so exciting?

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  8. Steve Cades says:

    Dr Know, “What makes healthcare topics so exciting?” I’m happy to make a few suggestions: MRSA, for example, is a matter of life and death. Medical costs are outrageous, compared to the rest of the post-industrial world, in no small measure because we have high rates of iatrogenic illness. Docs, particularly specialists, command incomes well in excess of most of their patients, and tend toward arrogance. Will those suffice as answer to your question?

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