In Americas hospitals, approximately 1 in 20 patients will contract a healthcare-associated infection (HAI). At Cooley Dickinson Hospital last year, one in 129 patients got an HAI. Now, those better odds of avoiding an infection at Cooley Dickinson have improved even further, as the hospital has documented a groundbreaking 82 percent drop in one type of infection, Clostridium difficile (C. diff).
"This decrease translates to many more people leaving the hospital safer and with better outcomes," says Joanne Levin, MD, CDHs medical director of infection prevention.
The 82 percent drop in the incidence of C. diff occurred following adoption in January of room cleaning with portable UV light, an added step among many CDH already takes to eliminate infections, reports Levin. Cooley Dickinson Hospital was the first hospital in the Northeast to use the Xenex PX-UV Disinfection System.
"The work of CDH staff to keep patients far safer than other hospitals is terrific, but two C. diff infections is still two too many," says Craig Melin, president/CEO, as he applauded the efforts of hospital staff, particularly environmental services and nursing team members, to accommodate the additional step of UV disinfection. Levin explains that the "dramatic decrease in C. diff transmission occurred during the time when most of the patient rooms and bathrooms were disinfected with the UV light."
"Cooley Dickinsons extra efforts mean the chances of getting an infection in this hospital are significantly less than 1 percent, compared to a 5 percent risk in general in the nation," Melin adds.
Cooley Dickinson had a strong infection prevention program in place before adding the UV disinfection, and the program which includes best-practice room cleaning and proper hand hygiene was already lowering infection rates, Levin says. But a bug like C. diff requires a stronger weapon than the tools they had in place.
Specific rates of C. diff infections are not available, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tracked a nearly twofold increase in C. diff infections from 1996 to 2003. Two statewide studies in Oregon and Massachusetts found C. diff infections increasing at an even faster pace. The C. diff. pathogen can be found in the community and can be transmitted when a patient is in any care facility, including a hospital or a nursing home.
What makes C. diff especially virulent is that the organism can make spores, which are like seeds with a hard shell. Even strong hospital cleaning products cant penetrate the shell, Levin said. Subsequently, C. diff can live in an environment for months. In one study, C. diff disease was found on 49 percent of surfaces in hospital rooms housing a patient with the infection and on 29 percent of surfaces in rooms with a patient who carries the germ but has no symptoms, according to a March 2011 report in Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.
C. diff is a bacterium that causes inflammation of the colon. According to the CDC, the elderly and people who have other illnesses or conditions requiring prolonged use of antibiotics are at greater risk of acquiring this disease.
UV light has long been used as a hospital disinfectant, starting in the 1950s when it was used to clean the air in TB wards. Levin said the light fell out of favor over the years due to maintenance and cost concerns. Brian Cruver, CEO of Xenex, said that other room disinfection technologies have been in use for several years but have been unable to produce successful patient outcome data. Cooley Dickinson Hospitals results "offer proof to hospitals of what our unique pulsed-xenon technology can do."
According to Xenex, the UV disinfection system has consistently shown to be more than 20 times more effective against C. diff and other "superbugs" than standard cleaning practices alone. The Xenex system quickly kills microorganisms on surfaces and in the air without contact or additional chemicals. The UV light penetrates the cell walls of the germ fusing their DNA together leading to instant damage, the inability to reproduce or mutate and killing the organism.
According to the CDC, HAIs are the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. Cooley Dickinson has implemented all the standard recommendations and then some to keep patients safe from the spread of HAIs, including C.diff disease, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), another infection that the CDC considers a public health threat, as well as 11 others.
"We are striving to eliminate the transmission of infections through a combination of best cleaning practices, hand hygiene, surveillance and technology, such as the hospital-wide use of UV room disinfection," adds Levin. "We are more aggressively implementing these practices and our effort is paying off for our patients."
Visit the Cooley Dickinson Hospital YouTube channel to see UV room disinfection in action.