Archive February 2017 XVIII, No. 2

Thinking of Buying ... Whole-Room Disinfection Systems

Automated units reach the surfaces that manual cleaning misses.

James Davis, MSN, CIC

The first thing to know — and to always keep in mind — about whole-room disinfection systems is that they don't replace traditional cleaning methods. They don't take the elbow grease out of wiping down high-touch areas or eliminate the need to clean floors with hospital-grade cleaner and disinfectant.

The key word is augment. In the increasingly challenging battle against pathogens, whole-room systems give you an added layer of security on top of the standard cleaning and disinfection policies and procedures you already have in place. But if you don't use traction and friction to remove the dirt first, neither UVC light, hydrogen peroxide, ozone nor anything else can get through the cover that dirt provides, to actually disinfect target surfaces.

Finding the time
The biggest challenge in outpatient environments — beyond the cost — is likely to be incorporating such systems into your routine. Because all require a chunk of time to do the job (15 minutes at minimum), a typical busy outpatient surgical facility probably isn't going to find it realistic to use them before or after every case.

With UVC light systems, you may have to move equipment around, or even out of the room, to eliminate shadowing. If the light doesn't hit a particular spot, it doesn't disinfect it. With all the equipment present in a typical OR, that can be a challenge.

With machines that use chemicals like hydrogen peroxide and various other combination mists and vapors, you may have to tape up air vents to prevent dangerous concentrations of chemicals from getting into HVAC ducts. Time may also be needed for chemicals to sufficiently dissipate before people can re-enter a disinfected room.

Down the road, new technology may allow for disinfection to occur without having to seal or vacate rooms. A recent study (osmag.net/9wwzxm) found that a passive light-emitting diode (LED) disinfection system used in an environment that couldn't be closed off (a level II trauma room) significantly reduced microbial surface contamination over time, even when room usage increased. The room was cultured 3 times in 5 different spots — before the system was installed, after 2 weeks, and again after 15 weeks. The impact was minimal after 2 weeks, but surface contamination was significantly reduced after 15 weeks.

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