Dublin, Ireland-based start-up company SureWash, has developed an augmented reality app to measurably and cost-effectively improve hand hygiene for hospitals, healthcare providers, and others. Within the app, artificial intelligence is used to communicate the right technique, as well as check progress and motivate thorough hand washing.
Count to twenty! Many people know, at least in theory, how long a thorough hand washing takes. If you wash your hands correctly, i.e. with soap and water for a sufficiently long time, you protect yourself and others from a range of infections. According to the Health Knowledge Foundation, four out of five contagious diseases are transmitted to the mucous membranes via contaminated hands, including colds, flu, gastrointestinal infections, and the currently dangerous coronavirus.
Thorough Hand Washing is Critical
According to the Federal Center for Health Education, anyone who washes their hands for at least 20 seconds can reduce the bacterial load by as much as one-thousandth of the potential risk. The procedure is simple, but in practice, however, it often falls short of being fully effective. A majority of people do not wash their hands for long enough, thus not providing a thorough cleaning.
In medical professions, washing hands is about more than just etiquette: around 250,000 patients die worldwide every year from infections contracted in hospitals. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that half of these deaths can be attributed to poor hand hygiene. Properly washed hands save lives. This is especially true for people who work in the healthcare sector. People who work in the pharmaceutical or food industry also have contact with many people and should know and practice the WHO guidelines for hand washing, especially during this pandemic.
Saving lives in six steps
As part of their professional training, most people within the healthcare sector automatically develop habits for cleaning their hands before and after any patient contact. But according to the WHO, many practitioners overestimate their competence and misjudge their own technique. The organization recommends washing hands in six steps, which are also suitable for hand hygiene with disinfectants:
- Moisten the palms of the hands, soap them and rub them together.
- Wash the back of each hand with the other hand.
- Wash the palms of the hands with interlaced fingers to reach the spaces between them.
- Rub the backs of the fingers with the other hand.
- Wash thumbs thoroughly.
- Clean each fingertip thoroughly.
To ensure that all steps are thoroughly followed every time, the sequence of events must be stored in our muscle memory. This part of the brain learns comparatively slowly and must be fed with many repetitions. According to a study by the Yale Medical School, about 30 repetitions within one week are necessary to memorize the method of washing hands in this way. Usually, trainers and instructors teach these steps, but the individual must practice the repetition precisely. An effective training program ensures in several stages, and with individual feedback, that learners practice and improve the process until they unconsciously implement a complete and thorough handwashing every time.
Practice, measure, get better
SureWash combines artificial intelligence and augmented reality into a user-friendly gamification application. The app places the user’s hands over a video of the correct procedure. A camera with gesture recognition measures and evaluates hand movements in real-time. There are 5 levels of training in the app and as the user progresses, prompts are reduced and the time to complete the poses gets shorter. The user receives direct feedback as to whether the washing (‘their hand motions’ might work better) moves within the specifications or makes a mistake. With each pass, the user can improve, compare with others, or achieve a personal high score!
Easily accessible, visible in real-time
The augmented reality app can be used flexibly in medicine, but also in public institutions. As a portable kiosk and recently also mobile on the smartphone, it is available around the clock, if required. In this way, users learn and consolidate the vital technology in a playful and efficient way, without having to leave the workplace for training or having to overcome other hurdles. Institutions can adapt the application to their needs and evaluate the training success in reports.
SureWash’s technology is specifically designed to improve everyday hand hygiene as well as in health crises times. The SureWash technique is based on WHO guidelines and has been scientifically confirmed and validated. The app has made SureWash available to the general public in order to contain Covid-19 through properly executed hand hygiene.