An estimated 100,000 Americans die annually from health care-associated infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That's more than the death toll from AIDS, breast cancer and car accidents combined. Despite this alarming statistic, many Americans still view hospitals as safe havens, but that could change as news of the rising number of healthcare-acquired infections across the nation is uncovered.
On the other side of the curtain, hospital administrators are heightening efforts to rid their environments of the pathogens that cause these HAIs, especially in the wake of more rigid penalties packaged into the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act for hospitals who report high rates of HAIs, coupled with the looming threat of losing valuable reimbursement from Medicare, Medicaid and many private insurance companies for preventable infections acquired during a patient's stay.
These HAIs are the result of hardy pathogens such as Clostridium difficile, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Acinetobacter spp. and vancomycin-resistant Enterococci that lurk in patient areas of hospitals and health care facilities. These "superbugs" are sneaking past traditional methods of cleaning and disinfection and being transferred from patient to patient through contaminated surfaces in patient rooms, medical equipment and hospital staff. Studies have shown that traditional cleaning methods such as hand-cleaning are only 50 percent effective, leaving patients with a 50-50 shot at making an acquaintance with a pathogen on any of the top places that they hide in hospital rooms.
So where are these sneaky bugs taking refuge? Here are the top spots:
• Bedside rail
• Bedside table
• Overbed table
• Chair arm
• Sink counter
• Bathroom area, specifically toilet and floor
• IV pole
• Monitoring equipment
• Critical and semi-critical equipment, such as catheters and ventilators
• Hands of the healthcare professional
These common patient touch points are where most environmental cultures are obtained in research on the effectiveness of decontamination methods used in hospital rooms.
In addition to enhancing standard disinfection measures by hospital staff, infection control experts are turning to technology such as TRU-D SmartUVC, a UV disinfection robot that works by generating UV light energy to modify the DNA structure of an infectious cell, virtually stopping it in its tracks. TRU-D is the device of choice for nearly all existing independent research on UV disinfection technology, including an ongoing $2 million study funded by the Centers for Disease Control's Epicenter Program study at Duke University, the University of North Carolina and eight other hospitals in the region.
"Adding TRU-D to the environmental services frontline at any hospital helps eliminate human error and takes the guesswork out of complete terminal disinfection of patient areas," says Chuck Dunn, president of TRU-D LLC. "Investment in this technology can save a hospital hundreds of thousands of dollars in penalties and missed reimbursements without having to increase hospital staff."
Before checking into a hospital, patients should inquire about the hospital's infection control efforts. Ask when the room was last cleaned and what methods were used. Ask if UV disinfection technology, such as TRU-D SmartUVC, was used. Many hospitals are testing patients for specific infections, such as MRSA, as part of the check-in process and assigning particular sections of the hospital for patients with a superbug infection to quarantine any possible spread. Find out if your hospital is using these measures. Also, pay attention to the preventive habits of attending nurses and physicians, such as washing their hands upon entering the room and using clean gloves each time. If your hospital is taking these precautions, you can rest assured that there won't be anywhere for those nasty pathogens to hide.
TRU-D SmartUVC is a 5-foot-5 germ-killing UV disinfection robot made by Lumalier ? the recognized leader in advanced UV disinfection products used across many industries, including health care. Learn more about TRU-D and access the independent third-party research available on this technology at www.tru-d.com.