It’s nearly impossible to escape the all watching eye of big brother these days. Whether it be red light cameras, or neighborhood surveillance, smiling for a close-up has become an accepted part of everyday life. But now one Long Island Hospital is volunteering to take surveillance to another level in an effort to clean up hospitals around the world.
"There's a sensor over the doorway and as you cross the sensor, it will turn on and that will immediately turn on the camera," explained Dr. Erfan Hussain as he took a reporter on a tour North Shore University Hospital's video camera-rigged intensive care unit.
The units 39 camera's focus on every sink and hand dispenser in order "to make sure doctors and nurses are washing their hands," said Hussain.
Hussain is one of dozens of doctors and nurses who's every hand-washing move is monitored around the clock. And for good reason. Most doctors weren't properly washing their hands.
"When you speak with any doctor they agree that this is something everyone should absolutely do, but because of time, energy, busyness -- sometimes gets missed," said Hussain.
In 2008, North Shore doctors were found in their own study to only wash their hands properly less than 10% of the time. Bad hand hygiene is an issue at hospitals across the country. According to the Centers for Disease Control, every year nearly two million Americans get an infection in a hospital, resulting in over 90,000 deaths.
While it's nearly impossible to connect dirty hands to increased infections, the health care industry hopes North Shore's approach could be a solution. Hospital officials say that's one of the reasons they chose to go on camera.
Arrowsight, the company that provides the surveillance, originally developed the technology for meat packing plants, and found received overnight results. Some of the hospital cameras were manufactured by General Electric, which is a part-owner of NBCUniversal.
Each hospital camera records 24 hours a day, seven days a week. "There was some concern being videotaped, again the Big Brother issue. But when we spoke with everyone and asked do you agree everyone should be hand washing, they said 'Yes'," said Dr. Hussain.
All of the video is fed half way around the world to an office in India where men and woman monitor the footage around the clock. Patients are not filmed and no toilets are ever seen. Feedback is sent in real time to message boards in the intensive care units. The results have been dramatic. Today North Shore doctors properly wash their hands on average 90% of the time. Infections have also decreased though an exact percentage was unavailable. And for those caught dirty handed?
"No one's been fired, no one’s been written up but there have been one-on-ones," said Donna Armenellino, the head of the hospital's Infection Prevention unit.
These electronic eyes are now being installed in a hospital in San Francisco and London.