According to the Biovigil demo video, HAIs – or “Healthcare Acquired Infections” – are the 4th leading cause of death in America and cost the US healthcare system a staggering $30-$40 billion dollars a year. A major contributor to these infections is the transmission of microbes from one patient to another on the un-sanitized hands of healthcare workers. Finding an effective and practical method to remind people to sanitize their hands between patient visits could save thousands of lives a year. But a workable solution has proved elusive.

The Biovigil Shame Badge

The Biovigil product offers a new twist on the problem and a great example of thoughtful healthcare ux design. A simple badge worn by doctors and nurses glows red if they fail to wash their hands upon exiting or entering a patient’s room. Waving a sanitized hand over the badge turns the glowing red to green and signals to patients that this important box has been checked.

Articles about the Biovigil product (in Wired and The Atlantic ) have focused on the way it uses shame to encourage a desired behavior. The shame, presumably, is what the doctor feels when they need to be reminded by their patient that they forgot to wash their hands. I like that this tactic engages the patient in the effort to monitor compliance with hand-washing routines  (although, I kept thinking that many patients may not be in a state where they are able or inclined to confront their physician about their hygiene).

Also interesting, is how the product subtly opens the door to a new mode of communication between doctor and patient. By its very existence the device invites patients to hold their healthcare works accountable for their behavior in a potentially confrontational way. I wonder whether healthcare workers would willingly submit themselves to these scenarios. If they do, and the product is effective in reducing HAIs, we’ll surely see other products that empower patients to improve their quality of care in real time.

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