Saturday, October 23, 2010

Interview with iScrub Lite developer Chris Hlady

iScrub Lite, a free iPhone/iPad app for recording hand hygiene observations, is making a lot of buzz in the infection prevention community since its launch over a year ago. I recently chatted with one of the app’s developers, Chris Hlady, to learn the story behind iScrub Lite.

EP: Could you describe what iScrub Lite does?
CH: iScrub Lite is an iPhone/iPad app for hand hygiene observers to record their observations. Hand hygiene observers are often infection preventionists, they measure hand hygiene compliance by watching healthcare workers (HCWs) go in and out of patient rooms and see if the HCWs are properly washing their hands both before entering and after leaving a patient’s room.

EP: Where did the idea for iScrub come from?
CH: It’s been over 2 years since the original conception, so I may not recall all the details. Basically when Apple first announced the App Store, I felt that it was going to become a very important platform. I began working on a game for the iPhone in order to learn how the platform worked. My advisor, Dr. Phil Polgreen, who is an epidemiologist at the University of Iowa, was very interested in hand hygiene and he gave me the idea for an app for hand hygiene.

We demoed a prototype at the local Iowa APIC conference in 2009 and got positive feedback from the nurses there. That experience encouraged us to move forward with the concept.

EP: What were some key considerations in the design process?
CH: We wanted the app to be simple and very easy to use. We saw that many hospitals were using paper forms to record their observations, and their processes sometimes required multiple forms.
We wanted to create a standard that improves the existing process.

Another goal for iScrub Lite was to cut down the feedback period. We found that in many cases observations were not communicated until weeks or even months later. We wanted to create a tool that lets nurses get results sooner and enables faster communication to HCWs.

EP: How many iScrub users are there?
CH: 3,000 users have downloaded iScrub Lite in the last 6 months.

EP: What kind of feedback have you been getting?
CH: We have been getting a lot of feedback. A lot of people are asking for iScrub Lite for the Blackberry and Android. We also get a lot of inquiries for iScrub Pro.

EP: What’s going to be in the Pro version?
CH: In the Pro version our main goal is to make it easier for nurses to make observations on a large scale. We also want to make reporting easier so that it will enable benchmarking. For example, a hospital can benchmark compliance among units in the same hospital or against other hospitals.

EP: What was the most surprising thing you learned during the making of iScrub Lite?
CH: How many different ways hospitals are doing hand hygiene observation. There are a lot of inconsistencies and disagreements over hand hygiene policies and practices.

Chris Hlady is a graduate student in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Iowa. Fellow graduate students and CompEpi research group members Donald Curtis and Jason Fries are also developers on the iScrub team.


  1. It would be interesting to see a similar app for CLIP reports.

    Though, I have to ask... how easy/hard is it to sanitize a smartphone touchscreen?

  2. Any word on an Android version of the app? Or does only Apple get all the i-love? :)