A new era of healthcare-associated infection (HAI) prevention

A new era of healthcare-associated infection (HAI) prevention

By Jane Lindborg

Healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) are a persistent and costly scourge, both economically and in terms of increasing morbidity and mortality rates in the U.S. and around the world. HAIs are any infections originating in a healthcare setting, and a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals that more than 10% of people who contract a HAI will die.

While there are simple and intuitive prevention measures to reduce the incidence of HAIs, infection rates persist. There are two major reasons for this persistence: The rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and the fallibility of cleaning protocols and products. Recent drug developments are addressing the need for improved antibiotics to treat HAIs. To get a handle on HAI prevention, the bacteria that colonize hospital rooms and equipment must be obliterated. Wily in nature, bacteria will continue to spread and cause infections even if a small area or hard-to-reach spot is inadvertently missed during cleaning.

Hospitals need better technologies that effectively combat bacteria and prevent HAIs. Here are the latest innovations that are doing just that:

Germicidal robots:

Xenex’s LightStrike Germ-Zapping robot is a standalone, no-touch disinfecting machine that uses pulsed xenon to produce ultraviolet (UV) light. When placed in individual hospital rooms, the LightStrike robot’s UV-C 360º light penetrates and destroys the cell walls of bacteria, viruses, mold, fungi and spores found on all types of surfaces, including those often missed by manual cleaning. Application testing showed a 50–100% reduction in infection rates, including infection by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). These efficient robots disinfect single rooms in 5–10 minutes and are currently on the market and in use by hospitals.

Halosil’s Halo Disinfection System is another total-room disinfecting automaton on the hospital scene. Unlike Xenex’s LightStrike that applies UV light to fight all manner of microorganisms, the Halo Disinfection System uses an EPA-approved proprietary “HaloMist” disinfection solution containing hydrogen peroxide and ionic silver that kills 99.9999% of Clostridium difficile spores (6 log reduction). The portable HaloFogger dispensing robot releases HaloMist that blankets every surface of a 10,000 cubic foot room and disinfects it within 1 hour.

Sterilizing the air:

Harmful bacteria pervade the air we breathe in buildings that have heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems—which is to say, they’re almost everywhere. Over time bacteria and mold form a biofilm that coats HVAC coils and ducts, which then circulate in the air supply. In hospitals where patients are more susceptible to infections, companies like Steril-Aire have developed germicidal UV-C lighting to tackle the problem at the HVAC source. Installation of UV-C emitters in the air handling units of HVAC systems strips away the biofilm and destroys circulating viruses and bacteria. Independent testing by the EPA confirms that Steril-Aire’s UV-C emitters reduce airborne bacteria up to 99%. Even better, removal of the biofilm increases the efficiency of the HVAC units, which saves both energy and money.

Electronic hand hygiene monitoring:

The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that hand hygiene compliance in healthcare facilities is at a disappointing 40%. In response, BioVigil devised a hand-washing surveillance and alarm technology that reminds healthcare staff to cleanse their hands via a user-worn badge, increasing hand washing compliance to 96%. Signals are transmitted via “beacons” that are located above door frames to badges worn by hospital staff to remind them to wash their hands when entering or exiting rooms. Red or green sensors on the badge indicate a reminder to perform hand hygiene or confirmation that hand hygiene has been completed, respectively. The user covers the badge after hand washing to report that hygiene has been performed, and the indicator changes from red to green. All compliance data is recorded for analysis, which creates the opportunity to improve clinical workflow. This electronic hand washing technology is a constant reminder to practice proper hand washing techniques and can reduce HAI rates by 15%. Importantly, it also puts patients at ease who can easily verify that hand sanitary methods are actively employed to keep them safe.

Big data analytics:

Wouldn’t it be great to predict and prevent HAIs before they happen? Big data analytics provide valuable information about patterns of HAIs, i.e. where most HAIs are contracted (e.g., ICU), when HAIs are contracted (e.g., after surgery), and how HAIs are contracted (e.g., catheters, central lines). Often this data is correlated with healthcare operating procedures, such as cleaning schedules and instrument sterilization, to pinpoint high rates of HAI infection with clinical operating procedures. Once this information has been sorted and analyzed, healthcare organizations can make pivotal changes to the workflow strategies that translate into improved HAI outcomes.

BD’s MedMined Surveillance Advisor is one of several offerings with data mining surveillance and algorithmic patient detection packages on the market. The extensive data derived from this surveillance predicts common routes of HAI infection, identifies high-risk patients for HAIs, and ultimately enables proactive prevention of HAIs. 

Innovation is the answer to HAI prevention:

Bacteria-causing HAIs have made it clear that they are here to stay unless drastic prevention changes are made. The WHO’s list of guidelines to follow to reduce the incidence of HAIs are sensible, but they require perfection on the part of humans who must clean every inch of contaminated surfaces, and must do so daily and with the correct disinfecting techniques and solutions. A single mistake could mean the spread of bacteria like wildfire. With the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, the need for better and more reliable solutions is even more critical. Innovative technologies like germicidal robots, air sterilization, and electronic monitoring and tracking provide a systematic and objective approach to HAI prevention that manual cleaning alone cannot guarantee. These sophisticated measures are the future of HAI prevention. They are safe, effective, and most of all, sustainable.  

If you have any questions or would like to know if we can help your business with its innovation challenges, please leave your info here or contact Jeremy Schmerer, Healthcare & Life Sciences Lead, directly at jschmerer@prescouter.com or Linda Cohen, Strategic Accounts Manager at lcohen@prescouter.com.

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