OhioHealth Enlists IBM to Prevent Disease in Hospitals


OhioHealth, a health care provider in Columbus, Ohio is working with IBM to limit diseases in hospitals. Despite being a place where patients go to be treated and get well, they also have a reputation as a place where just as many patients end up sicker – or at least sick in a new way. IBM is deploying realtime sensor networks to monitor things like employee hand washing in an effort to limit the spread of disease.

OhioHealth will use the technology to provide hospital administrators with real-time data that can be used to reduce healthcare associated infections (HAIs) like methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Clostridium difficile, which affect 1 in every 20 patients in U.S. healthcare facilities. The pilot project in Columbus has achieved more than 90% compliance with hand-washing standards – a 20% jump over its previous practices and well above the 50% national compliance level.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that nearly 2 million U.S. patients contract HAIs each year, and 90,000 die as a result. HAIs are also estimated to cost the U.S. healthcare system $4.5 billion in related medical expenses every year. Hand hygiene is cited as the most effective way to prevent the spread of HAIs, and hospitals are aggressively working to elevate hand washing compliance to 100%.

The real-time information is used to alert hospital personnel when proper hygiene habits are not being followed so that corrective action can be taken to reduce germ exposure to patients. The system is installed at all hand-washing stations and measures the hand-washing compliance of hospital staff through radio frequency identification (RFID) technology that is integrated with a mesh network of wireless sensors that collect data that is then analyzed by IBM’s system.

The use of Big Data to promote hand washing is notable as a small-scale practical application, powered by big technology. The data also sheds some light on hygiene practices patients themselves may well want to be aware of before entering the hospital. Just as you draw on yourself and tell them where to operate, you may also want to offer the hand sanitizer from your pocketbook.