NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — When a patient gets an infection in a hospital, it’s often a devastating complication. Those infections can be very hard and very expensive to treat, as well as being a leading cause of death in hospitals.

Now, a hospital in Brooklyn is using a combination of high tech and old fashioned washing to prevent infections.

Frequent hand washing and alcohol sanitizers are known to be the best way to reduce infections in the hospital, but busy doctors, nurses, and staff don’t alwasy rememebr to wash as often as they should.

Enter technology to the rescue.

When nurse Sherly Bristol-Gabin walks into a patient room, the first thing she does is use a hand sanitizer. It’s probably the most important thing she can do to prevent spreading infections form the nasty germs that tend to live in hospitals.

“Safety for patient and safety for staff, no cross contamination,” the SUNY Downstate Medical Center nurse told CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez.

After using hand sanitizer, she puts her hand over a little gadget called a BioVigil, which actually senses that she used the sanitizer before seeing the patient. It caused the BioVigil to beep and turn green.

Dr. Mafuzur Rahman, the Chief Technology Officer at SUNY Downstate, says the installation of the BioVigil system has dramatically reduced hospital-acquired infections.

“Several major studies have shown big reductions anywhere from 50 to 70, 80 percent reductions in infection rates after instituting a protocol like this,” Rahman said.

The key to the system is infrared sensors installed outside every patient room and at hand washing sinks. They detect when a badge wearing staff member has performed hand hygiene. If it’s been a while since hand washing, it turns yellow. A little longer? It turns red to alert the person to wash right away.

When hand hygiene is completed, putting one’s hand over the badge turns it green. It gives patients peace of mine.

Technology like BioVigil isn’t cheap, but SUNY Downstate has made the commitment for patient safety, knowing that preventing just a handful of devastating infections makes the system pay for itself.