Chris Hermann, Founder and CEO, Clean Hands
Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) have been escalating at an alarming rate. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), nearly 1.7 million HAIs occur annually in the U.S. leading to 99,000 associated deaths each year. And one of the leading contributory factors to this pressing concern is poor hand hygiene. In fact, research shows that appropriate hand hygiene practices can reduce healthcare-associated infections by more than 50%.
Cognizant of this fact, an ardent business leader who is efficiently addressing this longstanding issue of hand hygiene is Chris Hermann, the Founder and CEO at Clean Hands – Safe Hands (CHSH). As a highly accomplished physician and engineer, Chris has a unique perspective and unbridled passion for bridging the gap between engineering and medicine to bring practical healthcare innovations to market. However, initially, he didn’t have a plan to become an entrepreneur; instead, he aspired to become a physician-scientist. But while pursuing his dual degree program, a Ph.D. in Bio-engineering from Georgia Tech and an MD from Emory Medical School, he became aware of the problem of healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) and how hand hygiene is a major contributor. This is when Chris decided to address the complex issue of hand hygiene through advanced technology and hence formed and led a multi-institution research consortium that developed a core technology utilized in the Clean Hands – Safe Hands System. The research team included investigators from the CDC, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Emory, and Georgia Tech. This experience further fueled his passion for using his engineering/technical background to save lives. Under the indomitable leadership of Chris, today CHSH is helping to reduce hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) by inspiring a personal-best approach to hand hygiene.
Delivering Comprehensive Hand-Hygiene Solutions
CHSH offers an electronic hand hygiene compliance monitoring system to acute care hospitals throughout the United States. More than just monitoring, the system also reminds clinicians to sanitize when they forget. The three primary components that further differentiate the CHSH system are its Real-Time Voice Reminder, 6 phase process, and HAI reductions.
“Many other systems beep or have flashing lights. We’ve found that this contributes to alarm fatigue, so our system has a natural language, real-time voice reminder that gently reminds a provider at the moment to sanitize, if they forgot,” elaborates Chris.
The company uses a systematic, patent-pending, six-phase process that leverages technology to drive behavioral change and deliver value to hospitals along the journey to HAI reduction. It all begins with the installation of the technology that quietly gathers data in the background to set a baseline. In the next phase, the Real-Time Voice Reminder™ is turned on and then the third phase rolls the gamification and team challenges. Fourth phase challenges the individual while identifying top performers and those who may be struggling. The next phase involves workflow process enhancement where the system data identifies potential workflow challenges, allowing clinicians to be more efficient. Finally, in the sixth phase, it focuses on higher risk interventions.
“This six-phase process has increased the hand hygiene rates in many hospitals. More importantly, it has reduced HAIs to a great extent. Its last 15 consecutive installs have all reduced HAIs by over 66%,” states Chris.
Focusing On Clinician Centered Innovation
When asked about the challenges he had to face while setting up CHSH, Chris opines, “Getting the technology piece to accommodate the early complexities was tough but the hardest part was the people dynamics.” Initially, collecting the data and coming up with a process that changes behavior was quite challenging for the company. But, over the years, it has tweaked its process with the clinician in mind. Chris believes that in order to create behavior change, clinical buy-in is important, so clinician-centered innovation has always been his top priority. “You can’t design a technology system like this and want it to be successful if you aren’t thinking of the clinician. Creating a system that does not interfere with their workflow is vitally important. ,” affirms Chris.
The avid business leader always strives to be a trusted partner with his hospitals. Rather than just viewing hospitals as customers and walking away once the system is provided, CHSH consistently works with its hospital partners to find areas of improvement.
Continues to Be the Leader and Driver around Patient Safety
Over the years, CHSH has been consistently recognized for its accomplishments in healthcare and patient safety. It was featured in the list of “100 Best Places to Work in Atlanta” by Atlanta Business Chronicle and “Top 100 Fastest-Growing Companies in the Metro Area” by Business Chronicle Pacesetter. The company was also recognized as “Atlanta’s Best and Brightest Companies to Work For” and one of “Atlanta Inno’s 50 on Fire for 2020.”
For his insightful leadership and excellence, Chris has also won several awards and accolades including the Rising Star Award, which recognizes outstanding health care achievement by professionals under age 40 in metro Atlanta. Imparting the key lesson he learned during his entrepreneurial journey so far, Chris affirms “Life as an entrepreneur is a roller coaster with lots of high and lows. It takes a lot of hard work and grit to get through the lows but when things go well it is amazing.”