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Title:
Handwash monitoring system
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A handwash monitoring system and method for providing an alert when a person must wash her hands. A badge worn by the person is activated to register at least one of a visual, audible or tactile alarm after a specified time interval or by a beacon placed where contamination may occur when the badge enters the range of the beacon. The person must wash her hands according to a predetermined handwash procedure as set forth by visual and audible prompts issued by a base unit in a wash area in order to clear the badge alarm and advance a wash count.


Inventors:
Snodgrass, David L. (Stuart, FL, US)
Application Number:
11/146828
Publication Date:
12/07/2006
Filing Date:
06/07/2005
Primary Class:
International Classes:
D06F35/00
View Patent Images:
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
COOPER & DUNHAM, LLP (1185 AVENUE OF THE AMERICAS, NEW YORK, NY, 10036, US)
Claims:
We claim:

1. A handwash monitoring system comprising: a wash area including a faucet and a dispenser for washing hands of a person; a base unit connected to the faucet and dispenser for detecting when the person has correctly performed a predetermined handwash procedure, whereupon said base unit advances a wash count; and said base unit comprises means for deactivating the faucet for a predetermined period of time upon the base unit detecting the person has correctly performed a specific step of the predetermined handwash procedure.

2. The handwash monitoring system as set forth in claim 1, wherein said base unit is equipped with one or more of visual means and audible means for prompting the person to perform the predetermined handwash procedure.

3. The handwash monitoring system as set forth in claim 1, wherein said base unit further comprises a memory unit for storing performance data regarding the predetermined handwash procedure for one of later retrieval, immediate transmission and delayed transmission to a remote memory unit.

4. The handwash monitoring system as set forth in claim 1, wherein said base unit is equipped with one or more of communication means for communicating performance data regarding the predetermined hand wash procedure to a remote memory unit.

5. The handwash monitoring system as set forth in claim 1, wherein the faucet and dispenser in said wash area are activated by one of hand proximity sensors and non-contaminating means.

6. The handwash monitoring system as set forth in claim 1, further comprising means for preventing reactivation of the predetermined handwash procedure for a predetermined period of time upon the base unit detecting the person has correctly performed the predetermined handwash procedure.

7. A handwash monitoring system comprising: a badge worn or carried by a person for registering one of a hands-washed state and a hands-unwashed state; a wash area including a faucet and a dispenser for washing hands of a person; a base unit connected to the faucet and dispenser for detecting when the person has correctly performed a predetermined handwash procedure, whereupon said base unit communicates with said badge to register the hands-washed state; wherein said badge comprises an identification badge with a memory containing identification data that is transmitted to said base unit upon request by said base unit to begin the predetermined handwash procedure when said badge is within a predetermined proximity to said base unit; said base unit comprises means for selecting a language for the predetermined handwash procedure based upon the identification data; and said base unit comprises means for deactivating the faucet for a predetermined period of time upon the base unit detecting the person has correctly performed a specific step of the predetermined handwash procedure.

8. The handwash monitoring system as set forth in claim 7, wherein said base unit advances a wash count upon detecting when the person has correctly performed a predetermined handwash procedure.

9. The handwash monitoring system as set forth in claim 7, wherein said badge is equipped with one or more of visual means, audible means and tactile means for registering one of the hands-washed state and the hands-unwashed state.

10. The handwash monitoring system as set forth in claim 7, wherein said base unit is equipped with one or more of visual means and audible means for prompting the person to perform the predetermined handwash procedure.

11. The handwash monitoring system as set forth in claim 7, wherein said base unit stores performance data of the person regarding the predetermined handwash procedure along with the identification data transmitted by said badge to said base unit for later retrieval or for immediate or delayed transmission to a remote memory unit.

12. The handwash monitoring system as set forth in claim 7, wherein said badge comprises a timer that triggers said badge to register the unwashed hands state after a predetermined period of time elapses.

13. The handwash monitoring system as set forth in claim 7, wherein said base unit communicates performance data of the person regarding the predetermined handwash procedure along with the identification data transmitted by said badge to a remote memory unit.

14. The handwash monitoring system as set forth in claim 13, wherein said base unit communicates with said remote memory unit using wireless means.

15. The handwash monitoring system as set forth in claim 7, wherein the faucet and dispenser in said wash area are activated by one of hand proximity sensors and non-contaminating means.

16. The handwash monitoring system as set forth in claim 7, wherein said base unit communicates with said badge using wireless means.

17. The handwash monitoring system as set forth in claim 7, further comprising a plurality of beacons placed at locations where it is desired to communicate with said badge to register the hands-unwashed state when said badge is within a predetermined proximity to any one of said plurality of beacons.

18. The handwash monitoring system as set forth in claim 17, further comprising means for preventing said badge from registering the hands-unwashed state for a predetermined period of time upon said base unit detecting the person has correctly performed the predetermined handwash procedure to allow the person to exit said wash area and pass one or more of said plurality of beacons without registering the hands-unwashed state.

19. The handwash monitoring system as set forth in claim 17, wherein said plurality of beacons communicate with said badge using wireless means

20. The handwash monitoring system as set forth in claim 7, further comprising a plurality of sentinels equipped with one or more of audible means, visual means and remote means for issuing a warning when said badge is within a predetermined proximity to any one of the plurality of sentinels while registering the hands-unwashed state.

21. The handwash monitoring system as set forth in claim 7, further comprising means for preventing reactivation of the predetermined handwash procedure for a predetermined period of time upon the base unit detecting the person has correctly performed the predetermined handwash procedure.

22. A handwash monitoring method comprising the steps of: instructing a person to perform a predetermined handwash procedure using a base unit; deactivating a faucet for a predetermined period of time upon the base unit detecting the person has correctly performed a specific step of the predetermined handwash procedure; detecting whether the person has properly performed the predetermined handwash procedure using the base unit; and advancing a wash count with the base unit when the person has properly performed the predetermined handwash procedure.

23. The handwash monitoring method according to claim 22, wherein said instructing step further includes the step of one or more of visually and audibly prompting the person to perform the predetermined handwash procedure by the base unit.

24. The handwash monitoring method according to claim 22, preventing reactivation of the predetermined handwash procedure for a predetermined period of time upon the base unit detecting the person has correctly performed the predetermined handwash procedure.

25. The handwash monitoring method according to claim 22, wherein said handwash monitoring method further comprises storing performance data of persons regarding the predetermined handwash procedure to the base unit for one of later retrieval, immediate transmission and delayed transmission to a remote memory unit.

26. The handwash monitoring method according to claim 25, wherein said handwash monitoring method further comprises communicating performance data of persons regarding the predetermined hand wash procedure to the remote memory unit.

27. A handwash monitoring method comprising the steps of: registering a hands-unwashed state on a badge worn by a person; identifying the person using a base unit located in a wash area that prompts the badge to transmit identification data stored in the badge to the base unit to begin a predetermined handwash procedure when the badge is within a predetermined proximity to the base unit; selecting a language for the predetermined handwash procedure using the base unit based on the identification data; instructing the person to perform the predetermined handwash procedure using the base unit; deactivating a faucet in the wash area for a predetermined period of time upon the base unit detecting the person has correctly performed a specific step of the predetermined handwash procedure; detecting whether the person has properly performed the predetermined handwash procedure using the base unit; and clearing by the base unit the hands-unwashed state on the badge when the person has properly performed the predetermined handwash procedure.

28. The handwash monitoring method according to claim 27, wherein said registering step includes the step of activating one or more of a visual alarm, audible alarm and tactile alarm on the badge.

29. The handwash monitoring method according to claim 27, wherein said instructing step further includes the step of one or more of visually and audibly prompting the person to perform the predetermined handwash procedure by the base unit.

30. The handwash monitoring method according to claim 27, wherein said handwash monitoring method further comprises the step of advancing a wash count with the base unit when the person has properly performed the predetermined handwash procedure.

31. The handwash monitoring method according to claim 27, wherein said handwash monitoring method further comprises the step of issuing one or more of a visual alarm and audible alarm with the base unit when the person has improperly performed the predetermined handwash procedure.

32. The handwash monitoring method according to claim 27, further comprising the step of preventing reactivation of the predetermined handwash procedure for a predetermined period of time upon the base unit detecting the person has correctly performed the predetermined handwash procedure.

33. The handwash monitoring method according to claim 27, further comprising the step of storing performance data of the person regarding the predetermined handwash procedure along with the identification data transmitted by the badge to the base unit for one of later retrieval, immediate transmission and delayed transmission to a remote memory unit.

34. The handwash monitoring method according to claim 33, wherein said handwash monitoring method further comprises the step of communicating performance data of persons regarding the predetermined hand wash procedure to the remote memory unit.

35. The handwash monitoring method according to claim 27, wherein said registering step occurs when a predetermined period of time elapses.

36. The handwash monitoring method according to claim 27, wherein said registering step occurs when the badge is within a predetermined proximity to any one of a plurality of beacons placed at locations where it is desired that the badge register the hands-unwashed state.

37. The handwash monitoring method according to claim 36, further comprising the step of disabling the badge from registering a hands-unwashed state for a predetermined period of time by the base unit upon detecting the person has correctly performed the predetermined handwash procedure to allow the person to exit the wash area and pass one or more of the plurality of beacons without registering the hands-unwashed state.

38. The handwash monitoring method according to claim 27, further comprising the step of issuing one or more of a visual alarm, audible alarm and remote alarm by each of a plurality of beacon-sentinels when the badge registers the hands-unwashed state within a predetermined proximity to any one of the beacon-sentinels; and wherein said registering step occurs when the badge is within a predetermined proximity to any one of the plurality of beacon-sentinels.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to a method and apparatus for handwash monitoring systems. More particularly, this invention relates to a method and apparatus wherein persons are directed to wash their hands in a step-by-step procedure to promote adherence to government and industry hygiene standards.

2. Description of Related Art

It is well known that maintaining a high level of employee hygiene is critical in the food service industry and healthcare professions, where the spread of bacteria and viruses can ultimately endanger a person's health. These industries must follow strict government and industry regulations requiring employees to wash their hands before and after food preparation, after handling waste, after they enter a washroom, etc. An increasing number of industries, such as microprocessor fabricators, utilize “clean” rooms or sanitary areas that rival the sterile environment of a surgical operating room. Employees are required to wash their hands according to a schedule and/or before re-entering the clean area once they have exited to avoid product contamination. As a general rule, most industries require employees to wash their hands after any bathroom use. Many industries also require washing after an employee has entered any unsanitary area, such as a garbage disposal area or an infectious area in a hospital. Other industries may require employees to wash their hands before entering a clean room or sterile room.

Numerous inventions such as touch-free, automatic soap dispensers, faucets and hand dryers attempt to address the problem of workplace hygiene by making it easier for employees to wash their hands. Various systems have been developed wherein it is intended that a counter be incremented each time a person uses a handwash station. Unless employees are actively supervised in the washroom, however, there is usually no way to determine whether they have washed their hands. Furthermore, even if the employees do wash their hands, there is no way to easily determine whether they have followed a prescribed government- and/or industry-approved regimen to ensure they washed properly.

One existing system for monitoring whether employees have washed their hands uses three separate signals—one to detect that an individual has entered a washroom; a second to detect the individual has exited the washroom; and an alert signal triggered when the individual has exited the washroom without washing. The major drawback of such a system is its complexity. A control unit monitors all vital aspects of the system by analyzing and interpreting the entry and exit signals coming from separate sources to determine if hand washing must be performed. It also monitors a faucet, soap dispenser and blower to determine if hand washing is performed. The control unit issues an alert signal only if the hand washing does not occur. If any one component malfunctions, the entire system fails and employees could exit a washroom without an alert signal when no washing occurs. Another drawback of such a method is that it does not support a predetermined washing time schedule for employees. This method only requires the employee to wash when entering a washroom or other facility where it is desirable to wash before exiting. No provision is made for alerting the employee to wash their hands when the employee exits a “clean” area or sterile environment and thereafter wishes to re-enter the clean area. Finally, due to the use of entry and exit signals to function, such a system necessitates placing a washroom facility wherever there is a risk of contamination. For example, to prevent contamination from a garbage disposal area, a washroom facility would have to be installed in the garbage disposal area. This is not only impractical for existing facilities but defeats the purpose of improving overall employee hygiene.

OBJECTS OF THE INVENTION

It is an object of the current invention to solve the problems discussed above relating to monitoring employee hygiene. Specifically, it is an object of the current invention to provide a simple handwash monitoring system that will support a predetermined handwash procedure.

A further object of the current invention is to solve the above problems by retrofitting existing washroom facilities. Extensive construction of new washrooms or expensive remodeling will not be required.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

One embodiment of the present invention relates to a handwash monitoring system comprising: a wash area including a faucet and a soap dispenser for washing hands of a person; and a base unit connected to the faucet and soap dispenser for detecting when the person has correctly performed a predetermined handwash procedure.

The faucet and soap dispenser in the wash area are activated by one of hand proximity sensors and non-contaminating means. The base unit is equipped with one or more of visual means and audible means for prompting the person to perform the predetermined handwash procedure. The base unit is further equipped with one or more of visual means for displaying and/or advancing a handwash count when the person has properly performed the predetermined handwash procedure. The base unit is further equipped with one or more of a visual alarm and audible alarm to alert when the person has improperly performed the predetermined handwash procedure. The base unit is further equipped with one or more of information storage means for performance data regarding the predetermined handwash procedure. The base unit is further equipped with one or more of communication means for later retrieval or for immediate or delayed transmission of performance data to a remote memory unit.

In this embodiment, the handwash monitoring system comprises means for deactivating the faucet for a predetermined time upon the base unit detecting the person has correctly performed a specific step of the predetermined handwash procedure. The handwash monitoring system further comprises means for preventing reactivation of the predetermined handwash procedure for a predetermined period of time upon the base unit detecting the person has correctly performed the predetermined handwash procedure.

Another embodiment of the present invention relates to a handwash monitoring system comprising: a badge worn or carried by a person for registering one of a hands-washed state and a hands-unwashed state; a wash area including a faucet and a soap dispenser for washing hands of the person; and a base unit connected to the faucet and soap dispenser for detecting when the person has correctly performed a predetermined handwash procedure, whereupon the base unit communicates with the badge to register the hands-washed state. The faucet and soap dispenser in the wash area are activated by one of hand proximity sensors and non-contaminating means. The base unit is equipped with one or more of visual means and audible means for prompting the person to perform the predetermined handwash procedure. The base unit is further equipped with one or more of visual means for displaying and/or advancing a handwash count when the person has properly performed the predetermined handwash procedure. The base unit is further equipped with one or more of a visual alarm and audible alarm to alert when the person has improperly performed the predetermined handwash procedure.

The badge is equipped with one or more of visual means, audible means and tactile means for registering one of the hands-washed state and the hands-unwashed state. In addition, the badge comprises an identification badge with a memory containing identification data that is transmitted to the base unit upon request by the base unit to begin the predetermined handwash procedure when the badge is within a predetermined proximity to the base unit.

The base unit comprises means for selecting a language for the predetermined handwash procedure based upon the identification data, storing performance data of the person regarding the predetermined handwash procedure along with the identification data transmitted by the badge to the base unit for later retrieval or for immediate or delayed transmission to a remote memory unit, and communicating with the badge using wireless means.

In this embodiment, the handwash monitoring system comprises means for deactivating the faucet for a predetermined time upon the base unit detecting the person has correctly performed a specific step of the predetermined handwash procedure. The handwash monitoring system further comprises means for preventing reactivation of the predetermined handwash procedure for a predetermined period of time upon the base unit detecting the person has correctly performed the predetermined handwash procedure.

The badge further comprises a timer that triggers the badge to register the unwashed hands state after a predetermined period of time elapses. The handwash monitoring system further comprises a plurality of beacons-placed at locations where it is desired to communicate with the badge to register the hands-unwashed state when the badge is within a predetermined proximity to any one of the plurality of beacons; means for preventing the badge from registering the hands-unwashed state for a predetermined period of time upon the base unit detecting the person has correctly performed the predetermined handwash procedure to allow the person to exit the wash area and pass one or more of the plurality of beacons without registering the hands-unwashed state, and wherein the plurality of beacons communicate with said badge using wireless means.

In addition, the handwash monitoring system comprises a plurality of sentinels equipped with one or more of audible means, visual means and remote means for issuing a warning when the badge is within a predetermined proximity to any one of the plurality of sentinels while registering the hands-unwashed state, wherein the plurality of sentinels detects that the badge registers the hands-unwashed state through wireless means. The handwash monitoring system further comprises a plurality of beacon-sentinels for communicating with the badge when the badge is within a predetermined proximity to any one of the beacon-sentinels to register the hands-unwashed state in the badge and to issue a warning using one or more of audible means, visual means and remote means.

Another embodiment of the present invention relates to a handwash monitoring system comprising: a badge worn or carried by a person for registering one of a hands-washed state and a hands-unwashed state; a wash area including a faucet and a soap dispenser for washing hands of the person; and a base unit connected to the faucet and soap dispenser for detecting when the person has correctly performed a predetermined handwash procedure, whereupon the base unit communicates with the badge to register the hands-washed state. The faucet and soap dispenser in the wash area are activated by one of hand proximity sensors and non-contaminating means. The base unit is equipped with one or more of visual means and audible means for prompting the person to perform the predetermined handwash procedure. The base unit is further equipped with one or more of a visual alarm and audible alarm to alert when the person has improperly performed the predetermined handwash procedure.

The badge is equipped with one or more of visual means, audible means and tactile means for registering one of the hands-washed state and the hands-unwashed state. In addition, the badge comprises an identification badge with a memory containing identification data that is transmitted to the base unit upon request by the base unit to begin the predetermined handwash procedure when the badge is within a predetermined proximity to the base unit.

The base unit comprises means for selecting a language for the predetermined handwash procedure based upon the identification data, storing performance data of the person regarding the predetermined handwash procedure along with the identification data transmitted by the badge to the base unit for later retrieval or for immediate or delayed transmission to a remote memory unit, and communicating with the badge using wireless means.

In this embodiment, the handwash monitoring system comprises means for deactivating the faucet for a predetermined time upon the base unit detecting the person has correctly performed a specific step of the predetermined handwash procedure. The handwash monitoring system further comprises means for preventing reactivation of the predetermined handwash procedure for a predetermined period of time upon the base unit detecting the person has correctly performed the predetermined handwash procedure.

The badge further comprises a timer that triggers the badge to register the unwashed hands state after a predetermined period of time elapses. The handwash monitoring system further comprises a plurality of beacons placed at locations where it is desired to communicate with the badge to register the hands-unwashed state when the badge is within a predetermined proximity to any one of the plurality of beacons; means for preventing the badge from registering the hands-unwashed state for a predetermined period of time upon the base unit detecting the person has correctly performed the predetermined handwash procedure to allow the person to exit the wash area and pass one or more of the plurality of beacons without registering the hands-unwashed state, and wherein the plurality of beacons communicate with said badge using wireless means.

In addition, the handwash monitoring system comprises a plurality of sentinels equipped with one or more of audible means, visual means and remote means for issuing a warning when the badge is within a predetermined proximity to any one of the plurality of sentinels while registering the hands-unwashed state, wherein the plurality of sentinels detects that the badge registers the hands-unwashed state through wireless means. The handwash monitoring system further comprises a plurality of beacon-sentinels for communicating with the badge when the badge is within a predetermined proximity to any one of the beacon-sentinels to register the hands-unwashed state in the badge and to issue a warning using one or more of audible means, visual means and remote means.

Another embodiment of the present invention relates to a handwash monitoring method comprising the steps of: instructing a person to perform a predetermined handwash procedure using a base unit located in a wash area; detecting whether the person has properly performed the predetermined handwash procedure using the base unit; and advancing a handwash count by the base unit when the person has properly performed the predetermined handwash procedure. The instructing step further includes the step of one or more of visually and audibly prompting the person to perform the predetermined handwash procedure by the base unit. In this embodiment, the handwash monitoring method further comprises issuing one or more of a visual alarm and audible alarm when the person has improperly performed the predetermined handwash procedure.

In addition, the handwash monitoring method further comprises deactivating the faucet for a predetermined time upon the base unit detecting the person has correctly performed a specific step of the predetermined handwash procedure; preventing reactivation of the predetermined handwash procedure for a predetermined period of time upon the base unit detecting the person has correctly performed the predetermined handwash procedure; selecting a language for the predetermined handwash procedure using the base unit based on the identification data; and storing performance data of the person regarding the predetermined handwash procedure along with the identification data transmitted by the badge to the base unit for one of later retrieval, immediate transmission and delayed transmission to a remote memory unit.

Another embodiment of the present invention relates to a handwash monitoring method comprising the steps of: registering a hands-unwashed state on a badge worn by a person; instructing the person to perform a predetermined handwash procedure using a base unit located in a wash area; detecting whether the person has properly performed the predetermined handwash procedure using the base unit; clearing by the base unit the hands-unwashed state on the badge when the person has properly performed the predetermined handwash procedure; and advancing a handwash count by the base unit when the person has properly performed the predetermined handwash procedure. The registering step includes the step of activating one or more of a visual alarm, audible alarm and tactile alarm on the badge. The instructing step further includes the step of one or more of visually and audibly prompting the person to perform the predetermined handwash procedure by the base unit.

In addition, the handwash monitoring method further comprises identifying the person using the base unit that prompts the badge to transmit identification data stored in the badge to the base unit to begin the predetermined handwash procedure when the badge is within a predetermined proximity to the base unit; deactivating the faucet for a predetermined time upon the base unit detecting the person has correctly performed a specific step of the predetermined handwash procedure; preventing reactivation of the predetermined handwash procedure for a predetermined period of time upon the base unit detecting the person has correctly performed the predetermined handwash procedure; selecting a language for the predetermined handwash procedure using the base unit based on the identification data; and storing performance data of the person regarding the predetermined handwash procedure along with the identification data transmitted by the badge to the base unit for one of later retrieval, immediate transmission and delayed transmission to a remote memory unit. The registering step occurs when a predetermined period of time elapses, and/or when the badge is within a predetermined proximity to any one of a plurality of beacons placed at locations where it is desired that the badge register the hands-unwashed state.

The handwash monitoring method further comprises disabling the badge from registering a hands-unwashed state for a predetermined period of time by the base unit upon detecting the person has correctly performed the predetermined handwash procedure to allow the person to exit the wash area and pass one or more of the plurality of beacons without registering the hands-unwashed state.

In this embodiment, the handwash monitoring method further comprises issuing one or more of a visual alarm, audible alarm and remote alarm by each of a plurality of sentinels when the badge registers the hands-unwashed state within a predetermined proximity to any one of the plurality of sentinels; issuing one or more of a visual alarm, audible alarm and remote alarm by each of a plurality of beacon-sentinels when the badge registers the hands-unwashed state within a predetermined proximity to any one of the beacon-sentinels; and wherein said registering step occurs when the badge is within a predetermined proximity to any one of the plurality of beacon-sentinels.

Another embodiment of the present invention relates to a handwash monitoring method comprising the steps of: registering a hands-unwashed state on a badge worn by a person; instructing the person to perform a predetermined handwash procedure using a base unit located in a wash area; detecting whether the person has properly performed the predetermined handwash procedure using the base unit; and clearing by the base unit the hands-unwashed state on the badge when the person has properly performed the predetermined handwash procedure. The instructing step further includes the step of one or more of visually and audibly prompting the person to perform the predetermined handwash procedure by the base unit.

In addition, the handwash monitoring method further comprises identifying the person using the base unit that prompts the badge to transmit identification data stored in the badge to the base unit to begin the predetermined handwash procedure when the badge is within a predetermined proximity to the base unit; deactivating the faucet for a predetermined time upon the base unit detecting the person has correctly performed a specific step of the predetermined handwash procedure; preventing reactivation of the predetermined handwash procedure for a predetermined period of time upon the base unit detecting the person has correctly performed the predetermined handwash procedure; selecting a language for the predetermined handwash procedure using the base unit based on the identification data; and storing performance data of the person regarding the predetermined handwash procedure along with the identification data transmitted by the badge to the base unit for one of later retrieval, immediate transmission and delayed transmission to a remote memory unit. The registering step occurs when a predetermined period of time elapses, and/or when the badge is within a predetermined proximity to any one of a plurality of beacons placed at locations where it is desired that the badge register the hands-unwashed state.

The handwash monitoring method further comprises disabling the badge from registering a hands-unwashed state for a predetermined period of time by the base unit upon detecting the person has correctly performed the predetermined handwash procedure to allow the person to exit the wash area and pass one or more of the plurality of beacons without registering the hands-unwashed state.

In this embodiment, the handwash monitoring method further comprises issuing one or more of a visual alarm, audible alarm and remote alarm by each of a plurality of sentinels when the badge registers the hands-unwashed state within a predetermined proximity to any one of the plurality of sentinels; issuing one or more of a visual alarm, audible alarm and remote alarm by each of a plurality of beacon-sentinels when the badge registers the hands-unwashed state within a predetermined proximity to any one of the beacon-sentinels; and wherein said registering step occurs when the badge is within a predetermined proximity to any one of the plurality of beacon-sentinels.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 shows a handwash monitoring system according to an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2 shows a representative beacon according to an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 3 shows a representative washroom according to an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 4 shows a representative base unit according to an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 5 is a flow chart diagram showing a representative handwash procedure according to an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 6 is a flow chart diagram showing a representative handwash procedure according to an embodiment of the present invention; and

FIG. 7 is a flow chart diagram showing a representative handwash procedure according to an embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

FIG. 1 shows a representative badge 10 according to an embodiment of the present invention. The preferred embodiment utilizes the badge 10 as an identification (ID) badge worn on the outside of a person's clothing. This allows easy identification of each individual being monitored, discourages switching badges with others to avoid hand washing, and facilitates maintenance of each person's hand washing record in a separate memory location (not shown). Alternatively, the badge may be built into a uniform or be worn as a pager or similar device that uses any audible or visual alert to indicate the person is potentially contaminated and must wash their hands. The badge 10 may be carried by a person in their pocket, bag or in any manner that allows the person and/or their supervisor to become aware the person's hands are unwashed.

In addition to a picture 108, a person's ID information 110 (name, signature, bar code, etc.) is on the face of the badge 10. An ID memory 112 contains personal identification information. This memory could include a person's name, physical statistics, identification number, native language, etc. The badge 10 also contains a transceiver (not shown) to allow communication with a beacon 20 and a base unit 40. The badge 10 receives and responds to commands transmitted by the beacon 20 and the base unit 40 as described herein.

The badge 10 registers a hands-unwashed state whenever it is brought within a predetermined proximity to a beacon 20. The hands-unwashed state is triggered by a trigger signal 202 transmitted by the beacon 20 and received by the badge 10. The hands-unwashed state can be registered visually by a red indicator light 104 and/or audibly by a speaker 106 transmitting an alarm. The red indicator light 104 may continuously flash for maximum visibility, begin flashing and then light steadily, simply light steadily, or use any desired combination. This allows supervisory personnel to quickly determine if a person must wash their hands and eliminates the guesswork on the part of the person in deciding whether or not it is necessary to wash their hands. The badge 10 could also be equipped to vibrate similar to a pager to alert the person their hands must be washed. Therefore, the different visual, audible, and tactile alarms can be combined and tailored to suit the needs of specific industries, in accordance with the level of supervision desired. For example, an audible alarm may not be heard in a loud environment, making a visual alarm preferable. Alternatively, the badge 10 could be part of a basic monitoring system that does not utilize beacons 20 at all. In such a system, the badge 10 may or may not include any alarms and triggers the hand washing procedure under the supervision of the base unit 40 when the badge 10 is brought within a predetermined range of the base unit 40.

Additionally, the badge 10 can be equipped with a wash timer that triggers an alarm after a specified time interval. For example, a person working in a sterile environment could be required to wash their hands on a prescribed time schedule despite not having left the sterile environment to remove possible contaminants their own bodies might produce. This could eliminate the need for a beacon 20 altogether and require a person to only wash their hands on a prescribed schedule. The wash timer could also be used in addition to a system of beacons 20 placed at locations where contamination could occur.

The badge 10 registers a hands-washed state whenever the person washes their hands correctly at a wash area 30, as determined by the base unit 40. The hands-washed state is triggered by a clear signal 408 (see FIG. 4) transmitted by the base unit 40 and received by the badge 10. This hands-washed state is registered visually by a green indicator light 102. The base unit 40 also transmits a delay signal 410 (see FIG. 4) that activates an exit delay timer (not shown) in badge 10 when the hands are washed to prevent the badge 10 from registering a hands-unwashed state for a predetermined period of time. This allows the person to pass any beacon 20, such as one typically placed outside the wash area 30 without registering their hands are unwashed. Alternatively, the base unit 40 could be disabled from detecting the badge 10 or from reactivating the hand washing procedure for a specified period of time. A number of methods may be employed, but the aim is to keep the hand washing procedure described below from repeating once the person has washed their hands correctly.

A beacon 20 according to an embodiment of the present invention is shown in FIG. 2. The beacon 20 is a short range RF device that transmits a trigger signal 202 to a badge 10 within its range to trigger the badge 10 to register the hands-unwashed state. The beacon 20 may continuously transmit the trigger signal 202 or transmit only when a beacon motion sensor 204 is activated by movement within its range.

A beacon 20 is placed wherever there is a risk of contamination and/or wherever it is desirable for a person to wash their hands. For example, a beacon 20 could be placed outside a sterile area in a health care facility so the badge 10 of any person exiting the sterile environment registers the hands-unwashed state to warn the person to wash their hands before re-entering the sterile environment. Another typical location is outside a bathroom. A beacon 20 could also be placed in any other areas where contamination is likely, such as garbage disposals, quarantine or infectious areas.

As an optional feature, a separate sentinel unit (not shown) could also issue an alarm when a badge 10 in the hands-unwashed state comes within its range. The alarm can be visual by a red warning light 208 and/or audible by a beacon speaker 208 transmitting an alarm. Similar to the badge 10, the red warning light 206 could flash, light continuously or use a combination. This allows supervisory personnel to quickly determine if a person must wash their hands even if the person has somehow disabled the visual and/or audible alert on the badge 10.

The alarm could be operated until the badge 10 leaves the range of the sentinel unit, or may be operated for a predetermined period of time. The sentinel unit may be combined with the beacon 20 to provide all the above-described functions in one integrated unit.

FIG. 3 shows a representative wash area 30 according to an embodiment of the present invention. The preferred embodiment utilizes a touch-free faucet 302 and a touch-free soap dispenser 304. The touch-free units are activated by triggering hand proximity sensors when a person places their hands under each unit or some other non-contaminating means, such as voice activation sensors. A base unit 40 mounted near the wash area is operatively connected to the touch-free units, and monitors the use of each unit by receiving signals from each unit as it is activated by triggering its hand proximity sensor. The touch-free units are therefore preferable to those requiring direct hand contact because the base unit 40 can utilize the pre-existing hand proximity sensors, as well as for obvious sanitary reasons. Retrofitting the base unit 40 to an existing conventional wash area, however, can be accomplished by installing applicable sensors to allow the base unit 40 to monitor a hand washing procedure using a direct contact faucet and soap dispenser.

A representative base unit 40 according to the present invention is shown in FIG. 4. A base unit 40 is mounted near each wash area 30. The preferred embodiment is equipped with a highly visible alphanumeric display 402 for displaying visual hand washing prompts and a speaker 404 for transmitting audible hand washing prompts.

The base unit 40 continuously transmits a badge interrogation signal 406 within a short range about the wash area 30. When a badge 10 is brought within range, the badge interrogation signal 406 prompts the badge's ID transmitter 114 to transmit an ID signal (not shown) containing the identification data stored in ID memory 112. The base unit 40 stores the identification data in an internal memory (not shown) and selects a prompting language based on the identification data. In this way each person receives hand washing instructions in their native language.

The base unit 40 initiates a hand washing program and guides the person step-by-step through the hand washing procedure using visual and audible prompts with the display 402 and the speaker 404, respectively. At each step the base unit 40 monitors signals received from the touch-free faucet 302 and the touch-free soap dispenser 304 to determine if the person is carrying out the hand washing procedure as instructed. Once the person has completed the hand washing procedure correctly, the base unit 40 transmits a clear signal 408 to the badge 10 to register a hands-washed condition. This hands-washed state is registered visually by a green indicator light 102. The base unit 40 then transmits a delay signal 410 that activates an exit delay timer in badge 10 to keep it from registering the hands as unwashed for a predetermined period of time. This allows the person wearing the badge 10 to pass any beacon 20 without registering their hands are unwashed. Alternatively, the base unit 40 could be disabled from detecting the badge 10 or from reactivating the hand washing procedure for a specified period of time. A number of methods may be employed, but the aim is to keep the hand washing procedure from repeating once the person has washed their hands correctly.

FIG. 5 is a flow chart diagram showing the overall operation of a handwash procedure according to an embodiment of the present invention. The procedure begins at step 502 when a person determines that it is necessary to wash her hands.

In step 504, a base unit 40 displays a current wash count. The base unit 40 also instructs the person with the prompt “PLACE HANDS UNDER FAUCET & WET THEM.” A touch-free faucet 302 dispenses water onto the person's hands when the person places her hands under the touch-free faucet 302. In step 506, if the base unit 40 receives a signal from the touch-free faucet 302 indicating it was activated, the procedure goes to the next step. Otherwise, the base unit 40 displays the prompt “PLACE HANDS UNDER FAUCET & WET THEM” until the person complies. If the person fails to comply within a predetermined time, the base unit 40 resets the procedure to the beginning but does not increment the wash count.

In step 508, base unit 40 instructs the person with the prompt “PLACE HANDS UNDER DISPENSER.” A touch-free soap dispenser 304 dispenses soap onto the person's hands when the person places her hands under the touch-free soap dispenser 304. In step 510, if the base unit 40 receives a signal from the touch-free soap dispenser 304 indicating it was activated, the procedure goes to the next step. Otherwise, the base unit 40 displays the prompt “PLACE HANDS UNDER DISPENSER” until the person complies. If the person fails to comply within a predetermined time, the base unit 40 resets the procedure to the beginning but does not increment the wash count.

After receiving a signal from the touch-free soap dispenser 304 in step 510, the base unit 40 instructs the person with the prompt “LATHER HANDS FOR 20 SECONDS” in step 512. The base unit 40 deactivates the touch-free faucet 302 to prevent the person from prematurely rinsing her hands. Also in step 512, the base unit 40 initiates and displays a countdown sequence from twenty seconds to zero seconds.

In step 514, the base unit 40 sounds an audible alarm at the end of the countdown sequence and instructs the person with the prompt “RINSE HANDS” for a predetermined time. The base unit 40 reactivates the touch-free faucet 302 to allow the person to rinse her hands. The touch-free faucet 302 dispenses water onto the person's hands when the person places her hands under the touch-free faucet 302.

In step 516, if the base unit 40 receives a signal from the touch-free faucet 302 indicating it was activated, the procedure goes to the next step. Otherwise, the base unit 40 displays the prompt “RINSE HANDS” until the person complies. If the person fails to comply within a predetermined time, the base unit 40 resets the procedure to the beginning but does not increment the wash count.

After the base unit 40 receives a signal from the touch-free faucet 302, the base unit 40 displays the prompt “WASH COMPLETE,” resets the procedure to the beginning, and increments the wash count in step 518.

FIG. 6 is a flow chart diagram showing the overall operation of a handwash procedure according to the present invention. The procedure begins at step 602 when a badge 10 registers a hands-unwashed state. In step 604, the badge 10 signals for a person to wash her hands.

In step 606, the person approaches a wash area 30. When the badge 10 is brought within range of the wash area 30, the badge 10 transmits an ID signal containing the person's identification data. The base unit 40 stores the identification data in an internal memory and selects a prompting language based on the identification data so that the person receives handwashing instructions in her native language.

In step 608, a base unit 40 displays a current wash count. The base unit 40 also instructs the person with the prompt “PLACE HANDS UNDER FAUCET & WET THEM.” A touch-free faucet 302 dispenses water onto the person's hands when the person places her hands under the touch-free faucet 302. In step 610, if the base unit 40 receives a signal from the touch-free faucet 302 indicating it was activated, the procedure goes to the next step. Otherwise, the base unit 40 displays the prompt “PLACE HANDS UNDER FAUCET & WET THEM” until the person complies. If the person fails to comply within a predetermined time, the base unit 40 resets the procedure to the beginning but does not increment the wash count; further, the badge 10 does not register a hands-washed state.

In step 612, the base unit 40 instructs the person with the prompt “PLACE HANDS UNDER DISPENSER.” A touch-free dispenser unit 304 dispenses soap onto the person's hands when the person places her hands under the touch-free dispenser unit 304. In step 614, if the base unit 40 receives a signal from the touch-free dispenser unit 304 indicating it was activated, the procedure goes to the next step. Otherwise, the base unit 40 displays the prompt “PLACE HANDS UNDER DISPENSER” until the person complies. If the person fails to comply within a predetermined time, the base unit 40 resets the procedure to the beginning but does not increment the wash count; further, the badge 10 does not register a hands-washed state.

After receiving a signal from the touch-free dispenser unit 304 in step 614, the base unit 40 instructs the person with the prompt “LATHER HANDS FOR 20 SECONDS” in step 616. The base unit 40 deactivates the touch-free faucet 302 to prevent the person from prematurely rinsing her hands. Also in step 616, the base unit 40 initiates and displays a countdown sequence from twenty seconds to zero seconds.

In step 618, base unit 40 sounds an audible alarm at the end of the countdown sequence and instructs the person with the prompt “RINSE HANDS” for a predetermined time. The base unit 40 reactivates the touch-free faucet 302, which dispenses water onto the person's hands when the person places her hands under the touch-free faucet 302.

In step 620, if the base unit 40 receives a signal from the touch-free faucet 302 indicating it was activated, the procedure goes to the next step. Otherwise, the base unit 40 displays the prompt “RINSE HANDS” until the person complies. If the person fails to comply within a predetermined time, the base unit 40 resets the procedure to the beginning but does not increment the wash count; further, the badge 10 does not register a hands-washed state.

After the base unit 40 receives a signal from the touch-free faucet 302, the base unit 40 displays the prompt “WASH COMPLETE,” resets the procedure to the beginning, increments the wash count, and clears the badge 10 to register a hands-washed state in step 622.

FIG. 7 is a flow chart diagram showing the overall operation of a handwash procedure according to the present invention. The procedure begins at step 702 when a badge 10 registers a hands-unwashed state. In step 704, the badge 10 signals for a person to wash her hands.

In step 706, the person approaches a wash area 30. When the badge 10 is brought within range of the wash area 30, the badge 10 transmits an ID signal containing the person's identification data. The base unit 40 stores the identification data in an internal memory and selects a prompting language based on the identification data so that the person receives handwashing instructions in her native language.

In step 708, a base unit 40 also instructs the person with the prompt “PLACE HANDS UNDER FAUCET & WET THEM.” A touch-free faucet 302 dispenses water onto the person's hands when the person places her hands under the touch-free faucet 302. In step 710, if the base unit 40 receives a signal from the touch-free faucet 302 indicating it was activated, the procedure goes to the next step. Otherwise, the base unit 40 displays the prompt “PLACE HANDS UNDER FAUCET & WET THEM” until the person complies. If the person fails to comply within a predetermined time, the base unit 40 resets the procedure to the beginning and the badge 10 does not register a hands-washed state.

In step 712, the base unit 40 instructs the person with the prompt “PLACE HANDS UNDER DISPENSER.” A touch-free dispenser unit 304 dispenses soap onto the person's hands when the person places her hands under the touch-free dispenser unit 304. In step 714, if the base unit 40 receives a signal from the touch-free dispenser unit 304 indicating it was activated, the procedure goes to the next step. Otherwise, the base unit 40 displays the prompt “PLACE HANDS UNDER DISPENSER” until the person complies. If the person fails to comply within a predetermined time, the base unit 40 resets the procedure to the beginning and the badge 10 does not register a hands-washed state.

After receiving a signal from the touch-free dispenser unit 304 in step 714, the base unit 40 instructs the person with the prompt “LATHER HANDS FOR 20 SECONDS” in step 716. The base unit 40 deactivates the touch-free faucet 302 to prevent the person from prematurely rinsing her hands. Also in step 716, the base unit 40 initiates and displays a countdown sequence from twenty seconds to zero seconds.

In step 718, base unit 40 sounds an audible alarm at the end of the countdown sequence and instructs the person with the prompt “RINSE HANDS” for a predetermined time. The base unit 40 reactivates the touch-free faucet 302, which dispenses water onto the person's hands when the person places her hands under the touch-free faucet 302.

In step 720, if the base unit 40 receives a signal from the touch-free faucet 302 indicating it was activated, the procedure goes to the next step. Otherwise, the base unit 40 displays the prompt “RINSE HANDS” until the person complies. If the person fails to comply within a predetermined time, the base unit 40 resets the procedure to the beginning and the badge 10 does not register a hands-washed state.

After the base unit 40 receives a signal from the touch-free faucet 302, the base unit 40 displays the prompt “WASH COMPLETE,” resets the procedure to the beginning, clears the badge 10 to register a hands-washed state, and sends performance data regarding the handwash procedure with respect to identification data in real-time to a remote memory unit (not shown) in step 722.

The above invention has been described with specific embodiments, but a person skilled in the art could introduce many variations on these embodiments without departing from the spirit of the disclosure or from the scope of the appended claims. The embodiments are presented for the purpose of illustration only and should not be read as limiting the invention or its application. Therefore, the claims should be interpreted commensurate with the spirit and scope of the invention.