Hand-washing audit system cleans up at regional startup awards

Last month Toronto-based HandyMetrics Corp. won York Region’s Techconnex 2014 award for “Most Promising Start-up.” In so doing Michael Tsang gained local recognition as heading one of the most enterprising technology companies in the GTA.

Demonstrating innovation and improved quality of care.? A look at their participation in Toronto’s University Health Network’s research project provides insight into how they got to be an IT healthcare technology leader.

Reducing potentially deadly hospital-acquired infections through antimicrobial stewardship is an internationally recognized healthcare challenge. To address it, the University Health Network (UHN) initiated two onsite projects; one, to decrease the unnecessary use of antibiotics, and a second, to help hand hygiene auditors monitor, understand and report hand hygiene results more accurately and objectively. This very useful research was rapidly transformed into best practices across Ontario and beyond Canada.

HandyAudit, the electronic tool that UHN used to record and report hand hygiene data was the brainchild of Michael Tsang, Dr. Geoff Fernie, Director, Rehabilitation Research, Toronto Rehabilitation Institute and TRI scientist, Dr. César Márquez-Chin.

 Michael Tsang
Michael Tsang

In 2008 Tsang was a PhD student in the hand hygiene research group at the TRI/UHN. The team noticed a significant problem in the way hospitals were auditing and reporting hand hygiene compliance rates.

“There were large inconsistencies in how hand- hygiene compliance rates were reported, leading to unreliable data. Hospitals with some of the highest infection rates were also reporting the highest hand hygiene compliance rates. It was impossible to target scarce hospital resources, and fix the problem of poor hand hygiene in hospitals.”

And it was all done on paper.

They needed a different system to solve the problem. The TRI/UHN team developed one. The new tool was named HandyAudit. Pilot testing the solution with hospitals took two years and was academically validated. Tsang says this allowed many hospitals to trust the technology and adopt the product.

HandyAudit image
The HandyAudit tool makes use of touch screen technology.

Instead of recording and interpreting actions of health care workers on paper, auditors use the HandyAudit touch screen technology to input different pre-programmed actions of every health care worker to create a step-by-step sequence of hand hygiene actions. Data is automatically analyzed and digital reports can be easily generated by health care category, site and unit right down to the individual level.

To make the HandyAudit tool commercially available to hospitals and healthcare facilities worldwide, in 2010 Tsang decided to found HandyMetrics Corp.

Soon after Tsang became a client of York Region’s high-tech accelerator ventureLAB.

“My biggest challenge has been where to best focus scarce start-up resources,” he says. “New product ideas and international interest made it difficult for me to know how to best grow the company. Currently ventureLAB gives us essential strategic advice and gave us lots of key funding help.”

HandyMetrics is largely focused on selling HandyAudit into the Canadian and U.S. markets. In the past four years, the company has provided its product to over 170 hospital sites worldwide, with users in the U.S., Chile and across Canada- the majority of academic hospitals in Ontario, along with some of the most prestigious hospitals in the U.S. This year HandyMetrics earned its’ first clinical U.S. client, Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C., this in addition to continuing to work with its many U.S. research clients.

Tsang is bringing the fight to Europe as well. He is in the process of selling the HandyAudit tool to their first European customer- to be deployed in the upcoming Q4.

Jonathon Shore
Jonathon Shore
Jonathon Shore is a principal at Mrcpartners, a Toronto based communications agency that counsels I.R., tech, social cause and political clients. He manages the blogging and news content posting and social media outreach as part of the communications team at

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