Improving Disinfection Techniques
BY Thom Wellington
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With the proper use of short-wavelength ultraviolet (UV-C) lighting technology, research has shown that bacteria responsible for various infections, including bacteria known to be resistant to antibiotics, can be killed on surfaces in less than 10 minutes. The technology has been outfitted in many platforms, including self-operated light fixtures capable of disinfecting wide ranges of surfaces, and mobile robots that clean and disinfect rooms.
Research on the use of robots that fight hospital acquired infections (HAIs) has discovered fewer staff-contracted infections and loss of work time, resulting in a return on investment for environmental services departments in healthcare facilities.
The goal of UV-C lighting technology is to reduce patient exposure to antibiotic-resistant organisms and provide a safe environment for hospital occupants. Using this technology, in connection with tried-and-true training techniques, can ultimately save lives and create quality outcomes for environmental services departments.
While UV-C is an effective tool in reducing bacteria and HAIs that are derived from patient exposure, it does not replace the need to manually clean and disinfect the room first. Consequently, both humans and robots will need to work together.
Cleaning and disinfecting must be completed prior to UV-C treatment, since the light will not penetrate remaining bio-burden on surfaces. Physically cleaning and disinfecting remains a critical pre-UV-C treatment task — the two must remain connected.
There are a wide variety of chemical disinfectants approved for use in hospitals. The most commonly used surface disinfectants are quaternary ammonium compounds and sodium hypochlorite. The effectiveness of chemical disinfectants can depend both upon the antimicrobial activity of the disinfectant and appropriate application, including adequacy of cleaning, appropriate contact time and concentration of the disinfectant.
This focus on disinfecting is not exclusive to hospitals and long-term care facilities. In fact, the difference between office space and medical office buildings is blurring as we learn more about bacteria, allergens, multi-drug resistant organisms (MDROs) and airborne fungi. Some office spaces need to be aggressively cleaned using disinfectants in order to keep occupants safe and healthy. It’s important that mangers properly train staff on appropriate dwell times, in order to be effective when using chemicals.
Consequently, the cleaning team’s skill set and education needs to be expanded. Understanding possible causes of symptoms can save time and money with investigations and testing. Knowing how new technologies can be used to prevent problems on possible sickness can not only keep building occupants healthy, but set a facility’s cleaning team apart from a traditional cleaning company competitor.
THOM WELLINGTON is the co-founder of Infection Control University and CEO of Wellington Environmental. He is a member of APIC and ASHE, and has more than 25 years of experience in managing infection risk. Wellington has also been a professor at several St. Louis-based universities, including Webster University, University of Missouri — St. Louis and Lindenwood University.
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