Preventing diseases one sink at a time

10:56 AM, Dec 4, 2009   |    comments
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Resurgent Health and Medical, formerly known as Meritech, makes high-tech sinks that wash your hands for you.

"It squirts out water from all directions," explained Lindsey Bigelow, a Registered Nurse at St. Anthony Summit Medical Center in Frisco, which recently had a number of Resurgent sinks installed.

"It is kind of like one of those showers that you have multiple shower heads coming out. It's warm water and it spirals around so it gives you kind of a spa feel. It's pretty relaxing," she added.

While the sinks are pretty intuitive and usually have instructions posted nearby, Resurgent's Senior Engineer Kathy Lockridge says some people need a little coaxing to try it the first time.

"They look at it funny and they're almost scared to put their hands in it. When they first feel the water they hesitate, but then you put your hands in it you feel the warm water. It's a nice pulse. It feels nice on your hands," Lockridge said.

The sinks are hands-free. A user simply sticks their hands into the machine's cup-like recesses, interrupting an infrared beam and triggering the high pressure, low-volume water spray. During the process and without any interaction from the user, soap is applied and then rinsed from the users' hands.

Michelle Colbert, Resurgent's vice president of sales and marketing says studies have shown that the process is very effective at not only removing dirt, but at killing germs.

"In a 12-second wash time, we will remove 99.98%... That's very, very effective," Colbert said.

She says it is much more effective than most people's hand washing regime.

"We don't wash between our fingers and under our fingernails. One of the most common missed areas is our thumbs. So you really have to focus and concentrate to wash your hands correctly," Colbert explained.

She says even medical personnel, which are required to wash their hands before and after seeing each patient do not always wash their hands thoroughly.

"It's unfortunately very scary. Doctors are not as good you'd like to think they are," Colbert said.

Bigelow says that is likely because of the demands medical professionals face.

"I think most people are too busy. I think they know how to do it, it's just they don't take the time to," she said.

The hospital is hoping that the ease of the new sinks, combined with their effectiveness will decrease the number of diseases, something hospitals have been very vigilant about, especially following an increase in hospital-borne infections and the H1N1 flu outbreak.

"It's helping protect [patients], it's helping to protect us as employees, our families and everybody, so it's just common sense," Lindsey said.

Resurgent is now working on an upgraded version of the sink that uses radio frequency identification (RFID) to track whether specific nurses and doctors are washing their hands regularly using the system. Each staff member would wear a badge with the RFID embedded, so the sink would recognize which staff member is washing their hands.

"It downloads that to a data base and you can look at Jane Smith or John Doe and see exactly when they washed their hands and whether they left their hands in long enough," Colbert said.

She says that the data can then be used by hospital management as a replacement for traditional hand washing audits, as well as internal efforts to reward those who wash frequently. St. Anthony Summit Medical Center is expected to be a beta site for the upgraded sinks. They plan to only track usage by medical discipline, rather than individual staff members.

"Being able to track it is something they've never really had control over before," Colbert said.

Resurgent was founded 18 years ago and found initial success with the food industry. Its sinks can be found in Nestle and ConAgra factories throughout the country. They can also be found at a number of restaurants, including Front Range Chipotle locations.

The company was recently selected as one of the 50 Colorado Companies to Watch by the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade. Every Friday 9NEWS is reporting about another company, highlighting its success in this difficult economy. CLICK HERE to see those stories.

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