Portable thermal imaging could assist measure healthcare workers’ hand hygiene, says a study.

According to research results from a pilot study that was just published in the American Journal of Infection Control (AJIC), portable thermal imaging cameras may offer a fresh way to evaluate and enhance healthcare workers’ hand cleanliness habits (HCPs).

In its hand hygiene recommendations, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) both endorse the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers (ABHS). The way that ABHS is applied, including the amount of liquid used and how long the hands are rubbed, significantly affects how effective it is against microbes. According to numerous research, HCPs frequently neglect to apply ABHS to their thumb and fingertips.

Based on earlier research showing that topical application of ABHS causes temporary drops in skin temperature, Dr. Boyce and his colleague Richard A. Martinello, MD, wondered if thermal imaging with a portable infrared thermal camera could show whether HCPs had applied ABHS correctly, including to their fingertips and thumbs. They took thermal photos of 12 HCPs’ dominant hands using an infrared camera linked to an iPhone, taking baseline readings of the mid-palm region, the tips of the third finger, and the thumb before and then at various time periods after the study participants used ABHS (immediately after hands felt dry, and at 1 minute and 2 minutes later).

After the participants performed hand hygiene, the photos showed a substantial decline in mid-palm, finger, and thumb temperatures (p 0.01 for all sites), demonstrating that the infrared camera was capable of detecting colour changes that represented temperature drops. The researchers also discovered that when participants completed ABHS without adding their thumbs, the accompanying thermal pictures showed no colorimetric change in the thumbs.

After using ABHS, one participant with big hands did not experience a drop in temperature at the palm, finger, or thumb, which raises the possibility that thermal imaging might also be used to calculate the precise quantity of ABHS required based on each HCP’s unique hand surface area.





Journal Reference

Pilot Study of Using Thermal Imaging to Assess Hand Hygiene Technique, American Journal of Infection Control (2022). DOI: 10.1016/j.ajic.2022.07.015

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