Archive Infection Control 2017

Souped-up Surface Cleaning

Whole-room disinfection solutions and fine-tuned manual scrubbing will eradicate infection-causing microorganisms.

Bill Donahue, Senior Editor


whole-room disinfection robot LIGHT WORK Whole-room disinfection robots cover surface areas that sprays and wipes might have missed during manual cleaning.

After they've hit the OR surfaces with liquid disinfectants and elbow grease, they wheel in the heavy-duty artillery to put the finishing touches on the terminal clean at St. Charles Bend (Ore.) Medical Center: a disinfection robot that bathes the ORs in UV light. The ultraviolet light kills the microbes hardy enough to survive manual terminal cleaning — and hits the hard-to-reach nooks and crannies that the cleaning crew might have missed with their spray bottles and wipes containers.

Randy Barnes, CHESP, director of hospitality services at St. Charles Bend, has grown fond of the reassurance the robot provides. "When you bathe the room in ultraviolet light, you're scrubbing the atmosphere, so it kills everything in the surrounding environment," says Mr. Barnes.

Should you join St. Charles Bend in enlisting innovative new weapons to seek and destroy surface bacteria? Or is good old-fashioned elbow grease enough to wipe away infection-causing microorganisms? The choice comes down to convenience, caseload and cost.

Relying on robots
In January, St. Charles Bend brought in a robot for a 45-day trial. Satisfied with the results in reducing hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) without impeding room turnovers, the hospital now intends to invest in 3 more units: one for the ORs; one for patient rooms on the medical floor; and one to be used as a floater where it's needed most.

Mr. Barnes expects the robots to reduce HAIs, including cases involving spores of tough-to-kill Clostridium difficile, by 30%. Such gains won't come free — each robot has a price tag of $114,000 — but he says the reduction in HAIs and the associated cost-of-care savings should help the hospital achieve a return on its investment in less than 4 months.

"A lot of hospitals will shy away from buying high-ticket technology unless it brings in revenue, but this is an exception," he adds. "It has a patient safety benefit and essentially pays for itself."

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