GVSU group develops system to reduce hospital infections

A photo of the PSU.
The personal sanitizer unit (PSU) is a body-worn device that dispenses the foam sanitizer.
Image credit - Rex Larsen

A group of Grand Valley State University students has developed a series of devices for a Michigan-based company that addresses a common problem for health care workers: keeping hands sanitized and clean. 

Grand Valley's applied Medical Device Institute (aMDI) worked with Sterilogy to develop the hand hygiene compliance system with a goal to reduce hospital infections. The three-device system was designed for nurses, doctors and other health care workers who come in direct contact with patients. 

"Every day, about 250 people across the country die from hospital infections, and over half of infections are caused by direct contact," said Hal Zaima, president of Sterilogy, located in Bloomfield Hills. "It results in more than $30 billion in unnecessary costs to hospitals."

The idea for the system came from Bradley Ahlgren, an orthopedic surgeon and co-founder of Sterilogy. He said wall-mounted sanitizers were inconvenient and often empty, so he started carrying around canisters of sanitizers in his scrubs. 

Zaima enlisted the help of aMDI in spring 2017 to design, build and test a series of prototypes for the hand hygiene system, which includes three separate devices. The personal sanitizer unit (PSU) is a body-worn device that dispenses the foam sanitizer; the zone alert emitter unit is attached to a patient's bed and communicates with the PSU to remind health care workers to sanitize; and the base station unit is placed at a central location, like a nurse's station, and uploads data from PSUs when they are in close range. 

The aMDI team that developed the system included graduate assistants, undergraduate students and a professor, Karl Brakora, from the School of Engineering. The group recently finished the first set of prototypes and conducted demonstrations in a hospital patient room simulation unit at Grand Valley's Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences.

Jonathon Vinsko, a computer engineering graduate assistant, said it was a valuable experience to be able to take Sterilogy's concept and build it from the ground up. 

"All three devices work together to ensure that health care workers are complying with health standards," Vinsko said. "When a nurse or doctor walks up to a new patient or away from a patient, they are required to sterilize their hands. Sometimes people forget, so this system serves as a quick reminder." 

Zaima said the system will also help hospital administrators determine its compliance rate and improve workflow. 

"If there are multiple patients in a room, it's more convenient to have a portable sanitizing unit at the 'point of care,' rather than having to run back and forth to one mounted on a wall or to a sink," he said. 

Zaima said several hospitals in the Detroit area are interested in beta testing the new system, which has five patents granted and one patent pending. He said Sterilogy will continue to work with aMDI to fine-tune the current design in preparation for beta testing and mass production. 

About aMDI

The applied Medical Device Institute (aMDI), a first of its kind in West Michigan, is located in Grand Valley's Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences on the Medical Mile in Grand Rapids. The institute provides access to researchers, engineers, medical professionals, and business and entrepreneurial professionals. It uses an integrated approach that includes intellectual property, business review and mentoring. It was established in 2016 and is part of the Seymour and Esther Padnos College of Engineering and Computing. Learn more at www.gvsu.edu/amdi.


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