A growing number of hospitals are getting serious about reminding doctors to wash their hands. In fact, it’s the reason why you may notice a lot more beeps, buzzes and flashing lights the next time you’re in a hospital. For example:  

  • St. Mary’s Health Center in Missouri is testing a new wireless badge system that tracks when staff enter a patient’s room. If the doctor or nurse washes their hands, a flashing light on the badge turns green, but if they don’t wash up, the light flashes red. 

  • Other hospitals are using something called the Hand Hygiene Reminder System. With that, staff are required to wave their hands near a sensor that detects chemical vapors from hand sanitizer. Then, if the sensor detects dirty hands, a warning buzzer sounds. And if the buzzer sounds three times for any one worker, they’re flagged for being “non-compliant."

  • Also at least two hospitals in New York and San Francisco are using a system which tracks hand-washing habits with video monitoring. 

Why all the fuss over getting doctors and nurses to wash their hands? Because studies show that in the average hospital, the staff washes up only about half the time. And according to the CDC, at least one-in-20 patients now get hospital-borne infections, which kill thousands of people a year in North America alone, usually due to someone not washing their hands. It explains why many health experts say hand-washing is the number one thing doctors and nurses can do to protect their patients. And know this: In hospitals that started using these new “reminder” systems, hand-washing rates have jumped from 50-percent to as high as 99-percent.