Feasibility of Bluetooth Low Energy wearable tags to quantify healthcare worker proximity networks and patient close contact: A pilot study

Stephanie J. Curtis, Asanka Rathnayaka, Fan Wu, Abdulla Al Mamun, Craig Spiers, Gordon Bingham, Colleen L. Lau, Anton Y. Peleg, Mehmet Rasit Yuce, Andrew J. Stewardson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The hospital environment is characterised by a dense network of interactions between healthcare workers (HCWs) and patients. As highlighted by the coronavirus pandemic, this represents a risk for disease transmission and a challenge for contact tracing. We aimed to develop and pilot an automated system to address this challenge and describe contacts between HCWs and patients. Methods: We developed a bespoke Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) system for the hospital environment with anonymous tags worn by HCWs and fixed receivers at patient room doors. Proximity between wearable tags inferred contact between HCWs. Tag-receiver interactions inferred patient room entry and exit by HCWs. We performed a pilot study in four negative pressure isolation rooms from 13 April to 18 April 2021. Nursing and medical staff who consented to participate were able to collect one of ten wearable BLE tags during their shift. Results: Over the four days, when divided by shift times, 27 nursing tags and 3 medical tags were monitored. We recorded 332 nurse–nurse interactions, for a median duration of 58 s [interquartile range (IQR): 39–101]. We recorded 45 nursing patient room entries, for a median 7 min [IQR: 3–21] of patient close contact. Patient close contact was shorter in rooms on airborne precautions, compared to those not o transmission-based precautions. Conclusion: This pilot study supported the functionality of this approach to quantify HCW proximity networks and patient close contact. With further refinements, the system could be scaled-up to support contact tracing in high-risk environments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)66-70
Number of pages5
JournalInfection, Disease and Health
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 2022


  • Contact tracing
  • Coronavirus
  • Epidemiology
  • Healthcare-associated infections
  • Technology

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