In the case of a wholly wireless system that is dispenser agnostic, retrofitting existing soap/sanitizer dispensers is a cost-savings possibility to be seriously considered. Additional components are required for processing and delivering reports to management and may be included in the total system purchase. Each vendor will approach system configuration differently. It is critical that your evaluation take all of these various elements into consideration.
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Explore This IssueJune/July 2006
The level of infrastructure required is dependent upon many issues, including but not limited to the size of the facility, the number of hand wash areas and stations, the method of transmission (i.e. via internal LAN or Internet) to the data server computers. Note that the most ecological and efficient of systems will deliver all reports and graphical analyses via the Internet. This eliminates the necessity of being at the right computer with the right software to view the information. Instead, reports are available to all authorized persons within the enterprise, regardless of their location.
It can easily be argued that active RFID wireless implementation is the most costly in terms of system hardware. If your company requires the individual level of monitoring that these systems offer and is considering a badge-based system, keep in mind that a wholly wireless implementation is significantly less costly than a partially wireless system. A truly wireless badge-based system is also a much easier to install, maintain and upgrade.
Vendors offer multiple options and system configurations. As with any major purchase, a return on investment analysis is highly recommended to determine the vendor and configuration that will provide the best performance for your operation.
Beyond cost and complexity, a food service business that implements a badge-based system must overcome questions relative to the invasion of the individual employee’s privacy. The average quick service restaurant may be best served by a simpler, less intrusive system.
Now you may think this is a bit off the subject of wireless technology and hand hygiene, but allow me to digress for a moment to discuss the concept of teamwork. It has long been held that working in teams is more effective in the execution for a common purpose and for achieving departmental or corporate performance goals. Without delving further into the psychoanalysis of teams, a basic reason is that the team concept generates mutual accountability for a group’s success.
Recognizing the team concept as a viable performance improvement tool and continuing education as a necessity in improving hand hygiene, let’s look at one more method of improving hand hygiene—team performance measuring.
We have discussed two virtual extremes thus far, simple counting dispensers versus complex active RFID or badge-based systems. Counting dispensers indirectly use the team concept; RFID systems are focused on the individual’s performance. In between the two is another wireless technology focused on improving hand hygiene performance and promoting the performance goals of the team.
The team performance measuring system spans the first two methods described. First, it embeds a wireless transmitter within the counting dispenser. When soap or sanitizer is dispensed and counted, the information is electronically stored. Then the collected data is transmitted wirelessly to a building Internet gateway. The gateway is nothing more than a receiver and transmitter. It receives data from the building network of dispensers and transmits the information via the Internet to the vendor’s secure, remote data servers. Accumulated data on these servers is processed automatically. Performance measurements can be presented by individual location and comparatively reported by multiple locations. Authorized users within a particular food service enterprise can view the graphical analysis reports through any web browser from any location.
Wholly wireless systems are easily installed, operated, maintained and upgraded. By eliminating the human element in the data gathering stage, and storing and processing data remotely, such systems prove to be the lowest cost implementation. No additional labor costs for data collection or analysis are incurred and there is no need to purchase data storage servers or other computer peripheral equipment.