How Big Data Is Making Healthcare More Hygienic

February 24, 2017

12:50 pm

Hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) are a serious threat to patients that can lead to extended stays in the hospital, expensive treatments or death. Patients can receive an HAI during a procedure or while using a medical device, yet in many cases these infections are preventable through the act of consistent hygienic handwashing by healthcare professionals. With new Real-Time Location Systems, also known as RTLS, in place at healthcare facilities, the rate of HAIs is declining.

How Patients Contract Common Hospital-Acquired Infections

According to a World Health Organization (WHO) 2009 report, the most common infections acquired through the hospital and not related to patients’ original diagnosis are:

  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs) at 36 percent
  • Surgical site infections (SSI) at 20 percent
  • Bloodstream infections (BSI) at 11 percent
  • Pneumonia infections at 11 percent

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that most HAIs are due to invasive medical procedures and devices, such as the urinary tract infections acquired through the hospital, as many as 75 percent from using a urinary catheter. This tube is inserted through the urethra and into the bladder to retrieve urine. Prolonged use of the catheter increases the patient’s risk of developing a UTI.

There are other ways a patient can come into contact with a disease or organism in the hospital, including healthcare professionals not demonstrating hygienic practices while working. Although handwashing decreases the spread of disease, many healthcare professionals do not wash as frequently as recommended or wash in the appropriate manner.

When a healthcare professional touches a device, like a catheter bag and immediately touches the patient, a cross-transmission of organisms can result. According to the CDC, hand hygiene adherence rates have averaged at about 40 percent between 1994 and 2000.

As many as 1.7 million patients had at least one HAI in 2002 in the United States. During that same year, HAIs were responsible for 99,000 deaths across the nation. In Europe, the incidence of HAI-related deaths increased to 135,000 per year.

How Big Data Analytics Saves Lives

The CDC states that one patient out of 25 will acquire at least one hospital-associated infection, yet if healthcare professionals take steps to prevent these rates, the rate of HAIs can drop more than 70 percent. Facilities are now taking an innovative approach by using big data analytics through Real Time Location Systems. RTLS can generate reports about visits to hand hygiene stations and missed opportunities.

The electronic monitoring device identifies the healthcare professional using the handwashing station without impeding workflow. The data is then collected and the results produced in a graphical manner to pinpoint patterns and increase handwashing hygiene adherence.

The RTLS was not created to discipline healthcare employees, according to a journal article in International Journal of Health Geographics, but rather to educate the facility about areas, individuals or groups that may require more training or education to prevent the spread of disease and HAIs. When healthcare professionals wash their hands, the electromagnetic field emitter within the RTLS device triggers their badge tags and transmits the action to the system.

Apollo Hospitals, considered Asia’s largest healthcare group, uses RTLS devices to prevent and reduce the incidence of HAIs. By collecting data from the RTLS, the physician can make better decisions regarding treatment, reduce adverse clinical outcomes and prevent secondary infections. With HAI at a minimum level at facilities incorporating RTLS, healthcare costs decrease for the hospitals, insurance, and patients.

The economic impact of HAIs was $6.5 billion in 2004. Hospitals hope that using big data analytics will reduce those annual costs while saving lives.

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Kayla Matthews is a tech productivity blogger who writes for MakeUseOf and The Gadget Flow. Follow Kayla on Google+ and Twitter, or read her latest posts on her blog, Productivity Bytes.

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