Hand-washing is part of the job description in hospitals, yet studies in the US alone reveal that healthcare workers wash their hands only about half the recommended number of times.
According to New Scientist, two researchers from Duke University have filed a patent for a solution to hand-washing enforcement using RFID and wireless sensor technology. The idea is to issue RFID badges to staff, and then fit washroom facilities like sinks, faucets, water nozzles, soap dispensers and even towel dispensers with sensors and RFID readers that effectively can tell not only when healthcare employees enter and leave the washroom, but whether they used the soap, water and towels. The sensors can also time-stamp the data and alert supervisors when supplies are running low.
The researchers say the system - which could be used for restaurants and other businesses - can serve as a way to track hand-washing habits and reward employees who follow procedure (and punish those who don't). If it sounds Big Brotherish, there's a bit more at stake than enforcing the rules - according to the patent application, 100,000 people die every year from infections contracted whilst in hospital, and failure of staff to wash hands is believed to be a serious contributing factor.