Emory University School of Medicine is conducting a study to evaluate the effectiveness of monitoring systems to improve hand-hygiene compliance in health facilities. 

Hospitals & Health Networks reports that the study is part of a three-year program made possible by a $2.2 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

"We hope to gain insight into how well these electronic systems work and whether it's sustainable," says James P. Steinberg, M.D., associate dean of clinical services and hospital epidemiologist at Emory University Hospital Midtown in Atlanta, and a primary investigator in the study.

The study will take place over 18 months in about 200 patient care rooms at Emory University Hospital Midtown and Emory Johns Creek Hospital. More than 500 health providers will wear badges with Bluetooth light beacons. Those beacons are connected to sensors placed on alcohol and soap dispensers inside and outside patient rooms. The sensors detect if the hand-hygiene product is used and will relay that information to the Bluetooth beacon. 

Steinberg says the main objective of the study is to determine which components of an electronic system have the potential to improve compliance. But another part of the study will compare the compliance rate achieved through direct observation by investigators versus electronic observation.

Another objective is to evaluate the technology's potential to reduce health care-associated infection (HAI) rates, Steinberg says. But that aspect of the study will be limited because the researchers cannot mandate that all employees participate, he says.

Sujan Reddy, M.D., medical director of the Prevention Epicenters Program of the CDC, says the study still "will provide a lot of good evidence" of how electronic monitoring systems can affect HAI rates.