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Stopping Hospital Acquired Infections Requires Evidence-Based Strategy

By Sarah Simmons  
   March 03, 2017

Early in my career as an epidemiologist, I was an Infection Preventionist responsible for the critical care units at a 5-hospital system. Like any system serving a large and diverse population, we had issues with infection rates. Whenever we found an infection in one of our facilities it frequently seemed to come back to contamination in the patient environment. It required the work of clinicians to review the infection rate data in order to make a qualified judgment on the cause, which would help us determine a solution to prevent it from recurring.

As part of my role, I sat on the product selection committee reviewing items and equipment touted to reduce the risk of infections. Sometimes it was hard to cut through the hype. Companies offered a number of solutions, most often based at stopping the spread of infection at the point where the pathogens were coming in contact with the patient. They included things like antimicrobial dressings or impregnated catheters. What frustrated me was that the root cause of the infections was contamination of the environment.  If the pathogens aren’t in the environment in the first place, the patient will not contract an infection. Additionally, there was limited clinical evidence for these products.

Today we understand that contamination in the patient environment is directly responsible for many of the infections that occur. Healthcare associated infections (HAI) are one of the leading causes of death in the United States. CDC statistics show that in the U.S., 1 in 25 patients will contract an HAI and of those, 1 in 9 will die. Staphylococcus aureus. Acinetobacter baumannii. Clostridium difficile. These microbes can kill patients -- turning a routine and potentially positive medical procedure into a debilitating and costly healthcare nightmare. It doesn’t have to be this way.

At Xenex, we are taking a clinical approach to tackling disinfecting as a patient-care issue. We have developed a Germ-Zapping Robot that pulses xenon (a noble gas) to create intense ultraviolet (UV) light across the entire germicidal spectrum to quickly kill pathogens that may be lurking on high touch surfaces. Hospitals worldwide are now using these disinfecting robots to bring down infection rates by destroying the harmful germs and bacteria that can pose a risk to patient safety.

The clinical evidence demonstrates that pulsed xenon UV disinfection is effective. Hospitals using Xenex LightStrike™ Germ-Zapping Robots™ have published multiple HAI reduction studies in the peer-reviewed literature showing 50-100 percent decreases in their infection rates. This goes straight to the bottom line of a healthcare facility and puts it in a category above those still relying on their outdated and ineffective traditional housekeeping methods.

Making decisions about new technologies to prevent HAIs can be challenging, especially with the barrage of information and misinformation that may cross your desk so it’s imperative that you consider the clinical evidence. Hospital decision-makers need to ask tough questions when it comes to evaluating UV technologies. The gold standard for assessing new technologies is evaluating the peer-reviewed literature. Ask the UV vendor to show you peer-reviewed studies from hospitals that saw a reduction in infection rates. If they don't have peer-reviewed and published infection rate reduction studies, then the technology is inadequate and has not met the standard for evidence-based medicine.

For example, the highly-anticipated CDC-funded BETR-D study was published in Lancet earlier this year. The study utilized a mercury UV device and averaged disinfecting 2 rooms per day with cycle times ranging from 31-52 minutes (per cycle). The study states that there was no decrease in C.difficile infections and no statistically significant difference in MRSA infections resulting from their use of mercury UV disinfection devices. The study authors mention 4 peer-reviewed studies that did show a reduction in C.diff infection rates – and those were all from hospitals that utilized Xenex’s pulsed xenon UV technology.

Keeping patients safe is a hospital’s number one job and evidence continues to mount about the effectiveness of the Xenex disinfection robots. The reputation of your hospital is made up of individual patient experiences. If patients are given a choice for a procedure, you want to be able tout your low infection rates. Along with amenities, areas of specialization, and the skill of the staff, infection rates will be more of a factor for people choosing their healthcare facilities.

Infections are a problem for everybody. Make sure you’re paying attention. You do not want to just check the box and say your facility is using UV disinfection. It is a big investment and it is a worthy investment, so choose wisely.

Sarah Simmons, DrPH, CIC, FAPIC

Science Director

Xenex Disinfection Services

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