With Backing from SC Johnson, This Startup Gamifies Hand Hygiene to Slow Disease Spread

Hand Washing

On average, healthcare providers clean their hands less than half of the times they should, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This can contribute to the spread of the healthcare-associated infections that affect 1 in 25 hospital patients on any given day.

“We are ultimately solving the problem of the spread of these infections that a patient doesn’t come into the hospital with, but they acquire while they’re there. When doctors and nurses clean their hands, you can cut down dramatically on the spread of those infections,” says Dr. Chris Hermann, CEO of IoT startup Clean Hands Safe Hands (CHSH).

Founded in 2013, CHSH uses patented sensor technology in the form of a connected badge, similar in size to an ID nametag, that interacts with strategically-placed hand hygiene sensors. The sensors record and report if and when the healthcare provider cleans his or her hands upon entering a room, and, if they forget, reminds them with a voice command.

“This is a major, major problem for the healthcare industry as a whole as they get busier. Over the last several years, this has continued to climb higher and higher on the priorities of health systems and the industry as well,” says Hermann.

Last summer, the medtech startup received an undisclosed investment from leading household cleaning manufacturer SC Johnson to earmark toward national expansion and adding capabilities to the product.

Now, as the company prepares to graduate from the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) incubator, Hermann shares more about their accomplishments over the last few years, their shift to gamification, the current campaign that ignited their product growth and what’s next in the pipeline.

How are you shifting your focus into the gamification of the hand hygiene process?

We have a completely new sensor platform building on the latest advancements in the IoT and wearable space; we’ve refined and gamified that process. That’s really what’s creating value for the hospitals. As complex as healthcare organizations are, many times they struggle with behavior change, especially technology-driven behavior change.

We create a competition, which is the right way to gamify things in healthcare because of the unique background and personalities of the people that work in the hospitals. We run these gamified competitions at each of these different fixed phases, so we can very efficiently and very quickly build upon the success.

We are doing more and more with predictive analytics and machine learning over the next two quarters to identify high-risk situations and then be able to alert the hospitals immediately when they occur — not just wait for reports to be generated at the end of the week or day or shift.

As soon as you see a problem that would be concerning and facilitate the spread of infection — you have a high-risk patient and people are going in and out of the room without cleaning their hands — we can notify the staff through a text message where we send them data and push images to them. We’re really excited to see the impact of that over the coming months.

What is Clean Hands Safe Hands’ current demographic?

We are focused at this point on the acute care market, which is what most people consider hospitals. Early on we started close to home with many of the health systems within the [Atlanta] perimeter. They’ve been fantastic partners that we continue to grow and work with over the years.

Over the last two years or so we’ve expanded our reach nationwide. We are very quickly becoming one of the top leaders in the industry with hospitals everywhere, from south Florida to L.A. and everywhere in between.

How are current agency campaigns addressing hand hygiene, like the CDC’s, driving the product’s growth?

That’s actually what’s really helping to accelerate the movement around hand hygiene. Over the last six months many of the major agencies, such as the CDC and all the infectious disease societies, are revamping and putting a much higher priority on hand hygiene. I know here in the metro area, there are at least three major health systems that have hand hygiene as their number one system-wide initiative for the next fiscal year.

Specifically, some of the accreditation agencies are changing their policies around hand hygiene. This has been a silent problem for healthcare that nobody’s talked about for the last 150 years. Since last January, they’ve started to treat even just a single missed hand hygiene opportunity very seriously. They treat it as any other threat-to-life issue; you potentially can revoke a hospital’s accreditation for hand hygiene, risking losing your accreditation and government funding.

What’s next for the company?

The next six months, we’re really excited about. Hand hygiene was certainly the place to start because of the very immediate and direct impact it can have on patient safety. But we’re looking at doing many other things with the sensor within the hospital.

The ones that we’re working on pretty actively now are looking at identifying patterns in people, behavior and  infection data patterns — to identify where infections are spreading, why they’re spreading and ultimately, trying to prevent them. We’re also looking at other metrics related to patient care and patient satisfaction — making sure that the clinicians are checking on patients properly, making sure that when somebody needs something that they’re being responded to.

What we do very, very well is capture that patient-provider interaction in a way that there’s really no other meaningful way to do that currently.