Submitted by Laurie Riedman, Xerox public relations consultant

We all balance our personal lives and work – but how often do they collide?

Over the past month I’ve been working with Frédérique Segond, principal scientist at the Xerox Research Centre Europe (XRCE) on an announcement that we just made this week.  It’s a research project Xerox is conducting with medical researchers and the French government to help curb the incidence of Hospital Acquired Infections (HAI).  And based on my research and personal experience – I do believe the group is really onto something.

As the public relations consultant dedicated to help spread the word about projects going on in Xerox research labs – I had no idea when I was assigned to work on this project how personal it would become.

The first thing I did after getting the assignment was a quick Google search on HAIs and the severity of the problem.   According to the Centers for Disease Control, hospital-acquired infections in the U.S. result in an estimated 1.7 million infections and as many as 99,000 deaths yearly.  The cost is pegged at $45 billion annually.  In France alone it is estimated that 4,000 HAI- related deaths occur each year and that a third of these could have been prevented.

A few weeks ago — while I was doing research and writing the release — my father-in-law was hospitalized unexpectedly.  While it wasn’t life threatening, he had been fighting an illness for the past year that had left him quite weak and susceptible to infection.  After a few days in the hospital, he appeared to be responding to treatment and getting stronger.  Suddenly he was rushed to the ICU due to an infection that would not respond to treatment.  He passed away on March 11, 2010 and  I can’t help but wonder if it was an HAI that contributed to his death.

This is what millions of patients (and their families) face each year around the world.

While I found many published papers about procedures to help prevent HAIs – almost all of them outlined practical actions such as stricter cleanliness procedures that would keep the hospital environment and medical equipment clean and sterile and bacteria-free.  While I am sure these procedures do help curb HAIs – one has to wonder if it’s enough.

I didn’t find any papers that proposed a technological solution.  It’s my experience that technology and innovation can come to the rescue when we face our most pressing problems.

That’s where this Xerox project comes in.  Watch a video of Xerox researcher Frederique Segond or view the press release that describes the three-year project where researchers will use an advanced “text mining” tool developed by Xerox to analyze medical records, automatically identifying patients who could be at risk of contracting an HAI.

While this research project is being piloted in France it just may lead to a world-wide solution that could save a life of someone you know someday.