For Yuri Malina and Mert Iseri, the only way to create a solution is to study the problem, very closely.
In 2009, these two Northwestern University students founded “Design for America,” a student-run design studio dedicated to using innovation to find solutions for community issues. Since then, the program has expanded to 14 college campuses across America with students from 50 majors working on over 500 different projects. It is through Design for America that they created SwipeSense, what Mert and Yuri describe as “hand hygiene 2.0.”
As undergraduate students, the pair learned that each year 2 million people contract an infection during a hospital stay in the United States alone. Unfortunately, many of these infections spread because doctors and nurses don’t wash their hand often enough—on average, there is a 40 percent compliance rate for hand washing in hospitals. Mert and Yuri strongly believe that the user is never to blame for an ineffective product or system—it is a flaw in the design. They got to work, studying the hand-washing habits of doctors and nurses in Chicago-area hospitals for weeks.
To change that, the two entrepreneurs created SwipeSense, an innovative system that turns hand sanitization into an easy action that can be incentivized and tracked.
They saw that personnel were wiping their hands on their pants instead of using sinks or wall-mounted hand-sanitizer dispensers. Knowing that this problem kills more than 100,000 people in the U.S. every year, the two created SwipeSense, a device that taps into the pants-wiping instinct. The device clips onto the waistband of scrubs and when the user squeezes the device it dispenses a dose of hand sanitizer. Individual, convenient hand sanitizers for medical professionals is a great idea, but here’s the innovation: SwipeSense encourages doctors and nurses to clean their hands more often by anonymously tracking how often they use it, and rewarding them with incentives like free meals and gift certificates. “Like a frequent flier program for hand hygiene.”
“We want to make the right thing to do the easy thing to do,” says Mert. Mert and Yuri predict that the system could raise compliance levels to 80 percent or higher.
SwipeSense is now being tried out at six hospitals around Chicago, but the implications could be global. While still in the early stages, the system could easily be implemented in hospitals around the world. The pair also said that once testing is complete it would be easy to build a version for the everyday consumer.
For mothers, having sanitary hospitals is especially important. With the introduction of SwipeSense, mothers and children could be further protected from deadly infections during routine visits. Although SwipeSense is only in the early stages of implementation, these kinds of innovative health solutions can gain traction with popular support.
So what can you do to help? Tell your doctor or nurse about SwipeSense, and tell your friends and family members to do the same. You can support SwipeSense on Facebook and Twitter, and ask your doctor to visit the website SwipeSense.com.
Watch Mert and Yuri present SwipeSense at Milwaukee Innovation Week.
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