Overcoming the Challenge of Reducing Healthcare-Associated Infections

In January 2024, the American Journal of Infection Control published an article that shook the healthcare industry to its core. Despite the adherence to recommended disinfection protocols, high-touch hospital surfaces continued to be contaminated with pathogenic and potentially pathogenic bacteria.

The findings underscored the persistence and complexity of healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) and called for innovative strategies to tackle this challenge. Here we'll example  the implications of the findings and explore emerging solutions that can help healthcare managers, facilities managers, and operations managers combat HAIs more effectively.

Continued Contamination

HAIs are a significant and costly problem for patients, healthcare providers, and healthcare facilities alike. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HAIs affect one in 31 hospital patients, resulting in an estimated 72,000 deaths annually. In addition, HAIs can prolong hospital stays, increase healthcare costs, and cause severe physical and emotional distress for patients and their families.

To combat HAIs, healthcare providers have implemented various measures, including hand hygiene, antimicrobial stewardship, and disinfection protocols. However, the persistence of pathogens on high-touch hospital surfaces, as reported in the American Journal of Infection Control, indicates that current strategies may not be sufficient.

One potential solution to the challenge of reducing HAIs is the use of UV-C disinfection technologies. UV-C is a type of ionizing radiation that damages the DNA and RNA of bacteria, viruses, and fungi, rendering them unable to replicate and causing their death.

UV-C disinfection devices emit high-intensity UV-C light that can effectively eliminate bacteria, viruses, and fungi on high-touch surfaces such as bed rails, doorknobs, and medical equipment. Several studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of UV-C disinfection in reducing HAIs and improving patient outcomes.

Another innovative solution to reduce HAIs is the use of copper surfaces in healthcare facilities. Copper has intrinsic antimicrobial properties that can kill a wide range of pathogens, including MRSA, E. coli, and norovirus. Copper surfaces can help reduce the transmission of pathogens in healthcare environments by continuously eliminating bacteria on high-touch surfaces.

Several studies have shown that the use of copper surfaces in healthcare facilities can significantly reduce the incidence of HAIs.

Going Above and Beyond Should Be the Norm

In addition to these technological solutions, healthcare providers can also improve their cleaning and disinfection protocols. One approach is to use advanced cleaning technologies that can assess the effectiveness of cleaning and disinfection in real-time. For example, fluorescent markers can be applied to high-touch surfaces before cleaning and disinfection.

After cleaning and disinfection, a UV light can be used to detect any remaining fluorescent markers, indicating areas that need further cleaning and disinfection.

Finally, healthcare providers can also leverage the power of education and awareness to reduce HAIs. Patient and visitor education campaigns can help increase awareness of the importance of hand hygiene, antimicrobial stewardship, and infection prevention.

Healthcare providers can also facilitate staff training and continuous education programs that emphasize the latest best practices and emerging technologies in infection prevention.

The persistent challenge of reducing HAIs requires a multi-faceted approach that combines technological solutions, enhanced cleaning and disinfection protocols, and education and awareness initiatives. The recent findings published in the American Journal of Infection Control underscore the importance of innovation and creativity in combating HAIs.

Healthcare managers, facilities managers, and operations managers must adopt a proactive and comprehensive approach to infection prevention that leverages the latest technologies, best practices, and education initiatives. By working together, we can reduce the incidence of HAIs and improve the quality of care and patient outcomes in our healthcare facilities.

If you're a healthcare provider or healthcare facility manager, look no further than OpenWorks to help you provide EVS technicians and commercial cleaning professionals to care for your healthcare centers and sites. With more than 40 years experience in the commercial cleaning arena, we partner with you to create a unique scope of work for every one of of your locations. Reach out today for a no risk consultation.

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