• Article
  • April 30, 2018

Technology Helps Hospitals Battle Health Care-Associated Infections

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UV disinfection is a new weapon against tough germs.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), health care-associated infections (HAIs) are responsible for nearly 75,000 deaths per year in the United States. Recent CDC data reveal there are about 700,000 reported cases of HAIs in acute care hospitals, and more than half of HAIs occur outside the intensive care unit.

For decades, manual disinfection protocols have been used to battle pathogens including Clostridium difficile (C-diff), norovirus, influenza and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). However, in the age of drug- and chemical-resistant pathogens, these protocols can be inadequate. Hospitals are using new tools to combat these germs, such as ultraviolet (UV) disinfection technology, along with revised policies and protocols in the battle against HAIs.

In 2013, the Environmental Services and Infection Prevention departments at Children's Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska, first learned about UV disinfection technology in 2013 and purchased a room disinfection device in 2015. Patrick Bennett, CHESP, environmental services manager at Children's Hospital & Medical Center, talks about how the hospital has implemented the technology in an effort to eliminate HAIs.

What was the process like to implement UV disinfection at the hospital?
We had some challenges at first, mostly around staff education of exactly what the machine was and its capabilities. We also had to get organizational leadership buy-in and support because there was significant capital investment dollars vested.

What is the process for using this technology on a day-to-day basis?
Overall, the process is user friendly. Assigned environmental services staff members are trained to use and set up the machine. Staff members were a bit skeptical at first when I announced the department was going to be purchasing two units, but after the initial education and providing data-driven research, they began to support the idea.

Currently, we have three units: two on the main campus and one at an off-campus outpatient surgery center. The on-campus units run cycles for bacteria like C-diff at the end of cleaning processes for certain isolation patients. The other unit is used at the end of cleaning processes in all surgery suites.

What have been the benefits of implementing UV disinfection and the effect on patient outcomes? 
Overall, total hospital-acquired infections have decreased each year since 2015 due to multiple hospital-wide initiatives, including implementing the use of UV disinfection devices.

Learn more about Children's Hospital & Medical Center's efforts to decrease HAIs.

Send questions or comments to magazine@childrenshospitals.org.