Irish start-up SureWash wants to teach you how to wash your hands

18 Mar 2020

SureWash co-founder and CTO Gerard Lacey. Image: SureWash

SureWash was set up to help health workers memorise the essential motions for thorough handwashing – but it is now launching its AR app to the general public.

SureWash, a Trinity College Dublin spin-out, is launching its handwashing app in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

SureWash was set up 10 years ago to help health professionals and workers to memorise the essential motions that are required for thorough handwashing. In light of the current global health situation, the start-up is now launching its platform to the general public.

SureWash uses an interactive software system and augmented reality to offer training technology using the World Health Organization’s (WHO) hand hygiene protocol.

The start-up is also a founding member of the WHO Private Organisations for Patient Safety (POPS), which helps the WHO to promote safe hand hygiene in healthcare.

How SureWash works

The SureWash app uses live video to measure people’s handwashing techniques and give real-time feedback on their proficiency. With repeated use, the aim is that the user’s muscle memory learns the correct actions and the WHO standard of handwashing becomes second nature, according to the company.

SureWash said that it takes approximately 23 practice sessions over two weeks to properly build the muscle memory it takes to master the handwashing technique. It added that gamifying the process makes it “easier and more fun”.

The company has already been working with 200 hospitals and a range of sports organisations across the world, helping them implement hand hygiene training systems through SureWash kiosks.

In light of the Covid-19 outbreak, the company is expanding this training to a mobile app, which can be used outside of hospitals to train anybody who is interested in properly learning the WHO technique.

SureWash said that the app can be used by employers to help protect their workplaces, particularly in the pharma and food production industries, as well as the general public.

The company’s background

The start-up is working with the Learnovate Centre to develop new and innovative ways of delivering its products. The centre is based in Trinity College Dublin and is funded by Enterprise Ireland.

SureWash was originally set up in response to global epidemics such as SARS and MERS, as the WHO estimates that 50pc of infections could be prevented with better hygiene.

The company’s co-founder and CTO, Gerard Lacey, said: “We started by developing kiosks that hospitals used to train staff without needing to remove them from the workplace to attend training. It also gives them access to instant data on proficiency in hand hygiene technique.

“Phase two was the launch of the app version. We use gamification and augmented reality to record the movement of the hands and give feedback on what they are doing correctly or incorrectly. Once they have done this process between 17 and 25 times, it will go into their muscle memory.

“The app test your skills objectively as we can convince ourselves we are doing it right but we are missing parts that harbour microbes.”

‘If you are going to do it, you should do it right’

Lacey said that the current message about singing Happy Birthday twice or washing your hands for 20 seconds is a good first step, because “it is better for people to be doing something rather than nothing”. However, he added that “if you are going to do it, you should do it right”.

“The most common place for microbes to breed are on the fingertips, which are often missed when people wash hands. And we typically touch our faces, usually with our fingertips, between 16 and 20 times per hour,” Lacey said.

“This should be a process that we continue during the regular flu season even when this pandemic is over. During flu season, one in three staff bring home the flu to their children. However, if we wash our hands regularly and correctly, studies show that we can cut the number of sick days by 20pc.”

Lacey also warned against wearing jewellery at this time, noting that wedding bands are fine but many engagement rings “have crevices where the virus can hide”.

“Also, chipped or worn nail polish should all be removed. Nail beds are a hot bed for the virus and should be kept immaculately clean.”

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic