Holograms and hygiene

The time is finally here. We’ve reached the future, that distant, shiny, modern, sparkly thing that we’ve all been waiting for. Sure, we don’t have flying cars, hovering skateboards or nifty teleportation devices. But we have holograms in our hospitals, and they’re drastically improving hand hygiene compliance rates.

Meet Holly the Hologram:


She’s basically a rear projection unit designed to look like a real nurse. Her main duties include advising hospital staff, patients and visitors about the importance of hand hygiene, but she can easily be convinced to deliver all kinds of messages. Messages about things like way-finding, PALS and restaurant information are always popular.

Holly’s not alone. There are many different virtual nurses popping up in NHS hospitals all over the country. Some of them are projections of actual nurses working in the very same hospital, others are portrayed by actors or animations. All of them are helping to keep their hospital infection free.

A recent study at University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust found that 33% of visitors used the virtual nurse hand sanitiser unit, as opposed to the 2.1% of visitors who were using the existing dispenser. All hospitals have a zero tolerance approach to infection and a virtual nurse drives home the hand hygiene message in a memorable fashion. With two working hand gel dispenser units built into the design, patients, visitors and staff can take immediate action. Infection control and hygiene messaging needed bolstering in the hospital before the nurse’s introduction, heightening the danger of an infection being spread by a well-meaning visitor.

Another notable result from the study was the interaction that visitors had with the Virtual Nurse unit. During a two hour period, 173 visitors listened to the nurse’s messages. People were enchanted with the hologram, and couldn’t help moving closer to her. Some were fooled into thinking that it was a real person, until they went up to her. Many people reported back that it was the first thing they noticed upon entering the hospital. If a hygiene message is the first thing to get your attention, that can only be a good thing for patient safety.

The more we work to inform and educate the general populace on these key healthcare issues, the safer and healthier we all become. Our virtual nurses are the perfect example of a novel, memorable and clever way to impart a hugely important message to improve patient care.