Alabama initiative uses RFID, databases to track statewide hygiene compliance

By Mike Miliard
11:12 AM

Alabama's Putting Power into Healthcare Initiative (PPHI) bills itself as the first statewide effort to use a data-backed network to encourage and track hand-washing across multiple hospitals in a single state.

The initiative focuses on increasing hand hygiene in hospitals, which helps cut down on healthcare-associated infections (HAIs), which can complicate a medical condition, extend the time a patient stays in the hospital and boost the costs of healthcare and health insurance.

The PPHI involves Birmingham, Ala.-based IT firm Proventix, Alabama Power and 27 participating hospitals – all working in concert to improve health-quality compliance.

The initiative is "part of a vision that goes beyond hand hygiene," said Proventix CEO Harvey Nix. "PPHI shows that powerful partnerships and community initiatives can be created among hospitals across the nation's healthcare system."

He added that "we have an opportunity to improve the delivery of care through collaboration among healthcare workers, active point-of-care communications and standardized processes."

The initiative installs Proventix's nGage system in participating hospitals. nGage uses active communication screens and radio-frequency badges tied to a data and quality compliance system. By using nGage, hospitals measure when and how often their employees and healthcare professionals wash their hands. Contaminated and unwashed hands are a leading source of transmitted infection.

Nix says PPHI could be a national model for bringing high-quality monitoring and communications systems to save lives, cut costs and create operational efficiencies for healthcare workers and healthcare systems desiring to improve quality. "The next step is to begin a dialogue with employers and hospitals in other states that desire the same type of innovation and results," said Nix.

Proventix maintains a database of hand hygiene events, with more than 5 million recorded hand hygiene episodes. Using the data and measurable outcomes the system is proven, working and very promising for scaling at the national level.

Rich Embrey, MD, chief medical officer of Birmingham's Princeton Baptist Medical Center, led a team that conducted a seven-month study to determine whether increased hand washing prompted by the nGage System could reduce infection rates. The results showed that, during the study period, infection rates dropped 22 percent in the unit where the system was installed. That translated into 159 fewer patient days and an estimated health cost savings of more than $133,000, officials say.

"Proventix and Alabama Power's leadership have created the Putting Power into Healthcare Initiative as a model of initiatives that can be created among hospitals across the nation's healthcare system," said Nix. "Employer-funded efforts just make sense in today's business and healthcare environment. The nGage system reveals a solid business case, is a demonstration of community support and sets a standard for wider U.S. consideration."