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U of C researchers highlight the importance of hand hygiene

Last Updated Mar 11, 2020 at 3:24 pm MDT

CALGARY (CityNews) – An open-source tool designed by University of Calgary researchers is gaining traction as a way to help remind people to wash their hands.

This, as Canada reported more cases of COVID-19 on Thursday.

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“We’re seeing a lot of misrepresentation of what’s required, people in space suits,” said Dr. John Conly, medical director for the W21C Research and Innovation Centre at the University of Calgary.

“They all want to look like Dustin Hoffman in Contagion. That’s not necessary.”

WATCH: Properly washing hands the best defence against coronavirus

The technology was introduced in an effort to reduce transmission of hospital-acquired infections.

With Alberta reporting its first case of COVID-19 Thursday, researchers hope this technology can help educate the public.

“We developed a sensor that we can implement in current ABR dispensers, so alcohol-based rub dispensers that are already in all the hospitals,” said Johanna Blaak, a researcher at the centre.

When someone pushes the hand dispenser, there is a connection in there that goes to a screen and it can be any size it can be big or small, and then you’ll see something on that screen.

An audio cue will notify the person that they did a good job.

WATCH: Dr. John Conly demonstrates how to properly wash your hands

“We’ve demonstrated in both adult and pediatric ward settings that it improves compliance,” Conly added.

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“Last summer it was implemented at Alberta’s children hospital as a pilot in which we only had three pumps installed. This summer were going to install it over a full unit,” said Blaak.

“This is a great innovation. It’s what we might consider a social innovation because this is something that could go anywhere in the world, including low to middle-income countries,” Conly touted.

“It’s to be designed with open architecture so that the software and even the hardware component is available at low cost.”

The centre said that 75 per cent of people interviewed at the Alberta Children’s Hospital reported that the system increased their awareness of hand hygiene.

-with files from CityNews’ Jon Muma