The hospital at the University of Illinois at Chicago is among the first in the nation to apply high technology to a low tech puzzle.
Every year, millions of Americans go to the hospital expecting to get better and instead, get an infection that's sometimes fatal.
It's no secret that handwashing helps, but for years, the numbers of infections from MRSA, Clostridium difficile and other such bugs have stayed the same. It's estimated that on average, caregivers wash their hands about two out of three times between patients, and that's frequently how bugs are transmitted.
To increase those numbers, and hopefully reduce infections, the University of Illinois Medical Center has installed a system called Hygreen which acts as a reminder to health care workers before they ever enter a patient's room.
The provider begins by cleaning his hands, then placing them under a sensor that recognizes the cleaning, and transmits a signal to a badge the provider is wearing. When they walk into the patient's room, that badge transmits an "all clean" signal to a sensor above the bed.
It's a safeguard. If a caregiver walks into a room without washing their hands, the sensor won't get that all clean signal and the badge will start buzzing. A reminder becomes increasingly insistent.
It's too early to say what will happen in Chicago, but in one Florida hospital, using Hygreen for a matter of months reduced the rate of hospital infections by 89 percent.
Dr. Jim Cook, the head of infectious diseases at the UIC Medical Center, said reducing infections doesn't just save lives. It's one less thing for patients to worry about at a tough time.