Preventing healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) is a major priority for hospitals. On any given day, about 1 in 25 hospital patients has at least one HAI, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Superbugs that resistant antibiotics, microbes that cause diarrhea, and Ebola are a few of the infections that can be unwittingly spread by hospital patients and staff. To reduce the risk of HAI transmission, hospitals deploy high-tech methods of preventing, detecting, and fighting infections. Here are some ways technology is bolstering the effectiveness of hospital procedures, health care regulations, and manufacturing of medical parts in ways that reduce the spread of infections.
In the 19th century, obstetrician Ignaz Semmelweis discovered that washing his hands with bleach before touching patients reduced mortality rates by 90 percent. Today, hand-washing procedures remain an integral part of infection prevention in medical facilities. However, their effectiveness is limited by the fact that most doctors and nurses only wash their hands when entering and leaving a room, which does not prevent contact with infected surfaces after entering. Furthermore, compliance with procedures is often done on an honor system. Consequently, doctors and nurses tend to only wash their hands half as often as they should, estimates CDC epidemiologist Dr. John Jernigan.
Fortunately, technology is making it possible to monitor and enforce hand-washing policies more efficiently. For instance, the DebMed Group monitoring system uses an algorithm to estimate how many times hospital staff should have washed their hands and calculate a compliance rate recommending the ideal ratio of hand-washing to hand-washing opportunities. Biovigil uses a badge with a flashing light that flashes green when a staff member’s hands are clean and red when they aren’t in order to track the success of hand-washing attempts. Purell manufacturer GOJO Industries uses wireless technology to track usage of hand sanitizer dispensers. And SmartLink’s system provides analytical data on areas of high and low hand-washing policy compliance in hospitals. Disinfection robots from providers such as Xenex Disinfection Services are also helping keep hospitals clean
Health Care Regulations
Health care regulations work in coordination with technology to limit the spread of infections. For instance, the New York State Department of Health mandates strict regulations to prevent spread of communicable diseases. Hospitals must report any cases and suspected cases of certain communicable diseases and their carriers to the State Department of Health. When cases or suspected cases are identified, physicians are required to submit specimens for laboratory examination. Health officers must investigate identified cases, ascertain their sources, seek out contacts who may have spread infections, and take other steps to contain outbreaks. Isolation and quarantine may be required in certain cases, and removal of cases from one health district to another is prohibited.
Medical Parts Manufacturing and Handling
Using medical parts that have been manufactured and handled to maintain sterilization also plays a part in preventing the spread of infection. For instance, o-ring manufacturer Apple Rubber uses clean rooms that have been inspected and decontaminated to produce custom o-rings and seals for medical applications such as feeding devices, medical pump seals, dialysers, implant devices, and medical appliances. Such specially-designed materials are kept clean by sterile medical packaging services, a market projected to grow to $35.07 billion by 2020. Hospitals today also have sterile processing departments where surgical supplies and equipment are cleaned, prepared, and stored to ensure sterile use.