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The Future Is Now: Hal Zaima Of Sterilogy On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Healthcare Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

In retrospect, rather than spend 3 ½ years developing the aerosol sanitizer delivery system, I would have developed the foaming pump dispenser system instead, which is currently being finalized, and gotten it to market much sooner.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Hal Zaima.

Hal Zaima was born and raised on a U.S. Air Force Base located in Japan. Upon graduating from high school as Valedictorian of his class, he left Japan and headed to West Point, NY, graduating from the U.S. Military Academy with honors and earning a Bachelor of Science in Engineering. Zaima served in the Field Artillery and completed his tenure in the Army by serving as Protocol Office at Ft. Shafter, Hawaii, where he took care of distinguished visitors visiting Hawaii. Among those were Tip O’Neill, the former Speaker of the House of Representatives and his Congressional Delegation, Daniel Rostenkowski, former Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Sultan of Johor, His Royal Highness Mahmud Iskandar al-Haj, and Under Secretary of the Army to name a few. In addition, Zaima was presented with the coveted Meritorious Service Medal for his outstanding service in the Army. Upon completing his service, Zaima launched various businesses, including a joint venture company for Weyerhaeuser Paper Company and Honshu Paper Company, Clements Manufacturing, and most recently, Sterilogy. Zaima was the 2022 winner of Bob Evans Farms Heroes to CEOs grant program.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur ever since I can remember. I was a tinkerer and would take things apart and put them back together as a child. Most of the time, they still worked. Even while in the military, the yearning to become an entrepreneur persisted. Upon leaving the Army, my first big break came when I received an offer to become an “intrapreneur” for two multi-billion companies. Weyerhaeuser and Honshu Paper Companies were searching for a candidate to start a new joint venture company, and I became their first employee. After 16 years of building the company from the ground floor and establishing an Australian and European operation as well as various manufacturing facilities in each region, I leveraged my stock option shares and purchased an automotive wiring harness company, and operated it for ten years. Shortly after selling the wiring harness company, I was approached by my friend and orthopedic surgeon about hospital infection problems and his idea for a simple solution. He asked me to become his partner and to develop the product. Sterilogy was born.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

After several years of struggling with the development of the product, mainly because technology had not caught up with what we wanted the system to accomplish, I asked God if Sterilogy was what he wanted me to pursue. At the time, we were attempting to develop a kidney-shaped aerosol canister.

While attending an Entrepreneurial Symposium called “Impact” sponsored by a local Michigan incubator organization, there was a sign on the wall that gave me God’s reply.

Can you tell us about the cutting-edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

The World Health Organization states, “Every day, 247 people die in the USA due to healthcare-associated infections. This is equivalent to a 767 aircraft crashing every day. In addition, there are approximately two million non-fatal incidences annually, resulting in over $30 billion in unnecessary costs to U.S. hospitals. In other parts of the world, the problem is much worse.

Furthermore, worldwide, the need to reduce food poisoning has never been greater. Six hundred million people become ill annually from food contamination, i.e., 1 out of 10 people. Four hundred twenty thousand people die every year, of which 30 percent of deaths are children under five years old. In the U.S. alone, 78 billion dollars of food are wasted because of food contamination and foodborne illnesses.

WHO and the CDC state that “over 50 percent of healthcare infections are caused by poor hand hygiene and proper hand hygiene is the primary prevention method.

Sterilogy has the solution. It has patented a hand hygiene monitoring and compliance system, the only patented compact body-worn hand hygiene system, providing “Convenient Compliance.” It proactively alerts the user if they forget to sanitize their hands before patient or food contact to ensure compliance. It even records the dispensing event in real-time and calculates each user’s hand hygiene compliance rate presented in an easy-to-read dashboard display.

How do you think this might change the world?

When adopted, Sterilogy’s hand hygiene monitoring and compliance system will revolutionize the spread of infections to prevent deaths and reduce costs. One preventable death is one too many. By reducing hospital-associated infections, we collectively as a community can save 247 deaths every day in the U.S. alone, and by reducing foodborne illnesses, an opportunity to save 420,000 deaths worldwide. This is why I am particularly grateful for winning Bob Evans Farms Heroes to CEOs. With the $25,000 grant, this funding can help pave the way to remedy future infections, working fast to save lives and prevent future illnesses.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

Black Mirror is a fictional show that uses future science fiction technology to center around a near-future dystopia. Ironically, I believe we recently experienced a real-life dystopia in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic. If Sterilogy’s products were in the market, its technology would have had far-reaching and game-changing results in preventing the spread of the pandemic. In “Black Mirror,” technology such as the “Recaller” exemplified in the Season 4 show entitled “Crocodile” or similar technology in the show “The Entire History of You” would help track a person’s history by availing a device to recall their memory (Recaller) or having a person’s memory recorded in their entirety (Entire History of You). Even if these technologies existed today, tracking hand hygiene compliance would require bridge software to decipher this particular activity from all other recorded activities. Sterilogy’s current technology records hand hygiene compliance in real-time and collects the precise data that is being monitored. If the technology from “The Entire History of You” were developed, Sterilogy would have to be proactive to work with the developer so we can write the bridge software to filter out only the hand hygiene compliance information. That said, the technologies in Recaller and The Entire History of You, when applied to hand hygiene compliance, are not proactive technology. It merely allows the compliance data to be recorded and reviewed after the fact. Sterilogy’s technology is unique because it proactively ensures compliance by reminding users to sanitize if they forget.

A Senior Vice President and Chief Quality and Safety Office at the largest hospital group in Michigan supports this view and stated, “When we met last year with our System Infection Prevention leads, Dr. Rama Thyagarajan and Beth Wallace, I remarked that the concept of a smart personal hand sanitizer that proactively improved compliance was “brilliant”. Our Beaumont team made a number of suggestions as to how the concept might be optimized in actual clinical settings. Based on your update, we are extremely pleased that you have in fact embraced our recommendations, which is now reflected in the updated system.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

Yes. The design and development of the system encompassed both mechanical and electronic engineering. There were two major tipping points during the development of Sterilogy’s system in each of these areas.

There are several hand sanitizer products and mediums of delivery in the market: liquid, gel, and aerosol. We evaluated each medium and polled hospital workers finding that aerosol was the most preferred because it had a shape of its own which is important when used by a body-worn delivery device to prevent the sanitizer from oozing onto the user’s clothing. The foam product also spreads out and dries quickly and has emollients to prevent drying the user’s hands.

We, therefore, decided to develop the aerosol system. Because it is body-worn, we required a low-profile sanitizer container that hugs the body instead of something that protruded from the body. When I embarked on the development, I naively thought we could purchase a non-cylindrical aerosol canister off the shelf. I soon discovered that it did not exist. After speaking to friends in the aluminum extrusion business, I found an impact extruder that agreed to help develop the canister. It took 3 ½ years for us to develop the canister successfully. That was our first significant tipping point!

Many competitors utilize a wall-mounted sanitizer dispenser and electronic technology to achieve only “room level” hand hygiene monitoring. The issue with this type of system is that it only applies to two of the five “Moments of Hand Hygiene” required to prevent infections. Furthermore, WHO recommends that hand hygiene events occur at the “Point of Care.” As a result, we needed to develop a system with the capability of “bed level” hand hygiene monitoring; therefore, a technology to create a patient zone around the hospital bed was required so that the body-worn smart personal sanitizer could communicate with the zone boundary system to ensure a hand hygiene event occurred before patient contact. Unfortunately, with the beds being only 4 ½ feet apart, it required the technology for the boundary to be very granular. At the same time, the technology had to be infrastructure “light” because it would be cost-prohibitive and highly disruptive if the technology required a high degree of infrastructure. Until 2019, the technology had not caught up with what we required — tipping point #2!

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

As mentioned, while the Bob Evans Farms’ $25,000 is immensely important, and I am incredibly grateful for their support, Sterilogy requires additional investment funding to finalize development and start manufacturing the system to enter the market. We would also need to have a significant hospital group adopt our system or have the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) adopt Sterilogy’s system as the “gold standard” of reporting hand hygiene compliance. Currently, reporting procedures are inaccurate because data collection requirements only require observing a minimal sample size of hand hygiene opportunities. As a result, it has not dramatically lowered the number of hospital infections and deaths across the U.S.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

Because our product is not currently in the market, we have not publicized it to a great degree. We didn’t want to publicize the product and not be able to deliver when the excitement was high. We felt that it was essential to quickly follow up on the high degree of customer enthusiasm and interest in delivering our market-ready system.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Bob Schulz of Dynamic Tool is undoubtedly someone I am most grateful for. His can-do attitude, experience, persistence, and friendship helped Sterilogy develop and patent several non-cylindrical aerosol canisters.

John Kreitz is also someone I admire. He is a brother in Christ and had the enthusiasm, vision, and faith in Sterilogy to see how it could change the world and became my partner.

Lastly, I am very grateful to the wonderful team at Bob Evans Farms who not only chose Sterilogy as a winner for their 2022 Heroes to CEOs grant program, but will provide professional mentoring to help our growth, and launch, into the US market.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

We have not brought goodness to the world to date because we aren’t in the market yet.

If you speak to anyone, in almost every case, they will relate a story about some infection issue, whether it be hospital-associated infections, foodborne illness, or another infection event. They will tell you that my uncle, father, grandfather, mother, etc., went into a hospital and contracted MRSA or C. Diff, so market data and people’s personal experience indicate that hospital and foodborne infections are widespread. Saving lives would be one good to the world that Sterilogy could bring.

In addition, in Sterilogy Holdings’ ByLaws, we have a provision in our corporate charter to give away 10 percent of our Net Income to charitable causes. We are committed to bringing goodness to the world.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why.

Your overnight success will take years.

Dr. Ahlgren first discussed his idea to help facilitate hand hygiene compliance in 2008. I was consulting and had little time to work on Sterilogy, but I did so during the evenings and weekends. Even working full-time, development took so long because the desired technology didn’t exist.

Sell the sizzle and get funding early.

My partner and I decided to self-fund the company until we got to market. In retrospect, it took a lot longer than I had ever imagined. If I had to do it over again, I would not have turned down initial offers from investors. It would have gotten us to market a lot sooner.

Research existing technology to ensure it could do what we wanted.

I would have conducted better due diligence on the existing technology to avoid having to develop so many unique technologies or applications on our own.

Get to the Minimal Viable Product quickly and get to market.

In retrospect, rather than spend 3 ½ years developing the aerosol sanitizer delivery system, I would have developed the foaming pump dispenser system instead, which is currently being finalized, and gotten it to market much sooner.

The COVID pandemic is coming!

By being in the market using the MVP discussed above, we could have tailored our product to add contact tracing, timer, reminder system, and light pipe to help prevent the spread of COVID and other infections.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

Selfishly, inspiring a worldwide “No Infections” movement would help save lives and could be the single most amount of good to the most amount of people.

But, if I had one wish, I would wish Eagles for Children would grow to benefit disadvantaged children worldwide. Eagles for Children is a non-profit organization that uses the game of golf to benefit disadvantaged children. Children most times are victims due to no fault of their own. Homelessness, hunger, cancer, illiteracy, abuse; the list is long. Eagles for Children solicits private golf clubs to join the program. Once they are part of the program, each club member pledges a minimum of $2.00 every time an eagle (2 under par) is scored on their course by a member or their immediate family. Each month their account gets invoiced by the number of eagles for the month multiplied by their per eagle pledge. At the end of the golf season, 100% of the proceeds are granted by each participating club to organizations that benefit local disadvantaged children. If every private golf club participates, Eagles for Children could raise $140,000,000 per year to benefit at-risk kids in the U.S. alone.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Replace “What If” with “Hal Yeah!”

Joking aside, so many hit home, but two, in particular, stick out.

“Be careful how you think because your life is shaped by it,” Proverbs 4:23.

“I have had significant tragedies, but what kept me moving forward was “Hope”, which begins with “Faith” and both Faith and Hope starts with positive thinking.”

“For if they fall, one will lift up the other.

But woe to him who is alone when he falls,

For he has no one to help him up,” Ecclesiastes 4:10

Doing things on your own without help is very difficult. However, doing things in a community helps the soul and allows us to pick each other up when times are tough.

Some very well-known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)

If you could stop a Boeing 767 from crashing today, wouldn’t you?

Hospital-associated infections kill 247 patients every day in the U.S., resulting in over $30 billion in unnecessary costs, equivalent to a daily, deadly plane crash. You’ve undoubtedly seen wall-mounted hand sanitizer dispensers everywhere in a hospital, but healthcare workers indicate that they are inconveniently located and are empty half the time. Sterilogy has the solution! It has patented and developed a hand hygiene compliance system that uses a unique compact body-worn smart personal sanitizer that is always at the “Point of Care.” It reminds the user to sanitize at the appropriate time to ensure hand hygiene compliance and records the data.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.



In-depth Interviews with Authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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