Essential Disinfection Considerations in the Fight Against Hospital Acquired Infections

written by Dr. Gina Sloan, Director of Innovations at Microban

When a member of the family gets sick, you typically seek out urgent care or hospital facilities to find a quick remedy to the symptoms. This happens so frequently in the US that the CDC estimates there are 125.7 million visits to outpatient facilities annually. Have you ever stopped to ask yourself: “Who was in the room before me?” “Who did the doctor see before me?” “Have appropriate disinfection processes been implemented to clean this room?” These are all becoming more important questions in the quest to avoid Hospital Acquired Infections.

Handwashing to Combat Bacteria Exposure

Most people take for granted that a healthcare worker has washed their hands before entering the room. The World Health Organization (WHO) has 5 moments that a healthcare worker should be washing their hands. Most hospitals have rigorous training programs that focus on compliance to the 5 moments of hand hygiene. However, it has been noted that only 40% of healthcare workers wash their hands before contacting a patient.1 This means that 6 out of 10 healthcare workers are not efficiently washing their hands before conducting your exam. The intense scrutiny and correlation between hand hygiene and Hospital Acquired Infections has lead to an overall decrease in HAIs. However, the CDC still estimates that everyday 1 in 25 patients will get a Hospital Acquired Infection.

The previous patient had WHAT?

Interestingly, new research indicates that the environment around a patient is just as important as a nurse’s hands. As you enter the patient room in either a hospital, primary care physician’s office, or outpatient facility, you are encountering a multitude of bacteria. These come from the healthcare provider, you, and the patient before you. You are 5 - 6 times more likely to get an infection if the person before you had an infection.2 This means that if the patient before you had MRSA, you or your family member is at an increased risk of getting MRSA. Hospitals have routines for cleaning, but the training and compliance monitoring systems are just beginning. As development of innovative solutions continues to progress, detection and monitoring will become as important as disinfection in the systematic approach to keep healthcare facilities cleaner.

What can I do to protect myself and my family?

No one expects, or should expect, healthcare workers to be perfect. Sometimes a hand washing moment may be missed in the midst of a medical crisis. Maybe a spot on the surface was missed during the last cleaning. Knowing this information and asking the right questions are the first steps in receiving good care. Ask your healthcare provider to wash their hands before your examination. Ask if the room was recently disinfected with an EPA registered disinfectant.

Innovative Solutions for the Healthcare Industry Historically, hospitals only had access to discontinuous cleaning practices. That means that once a surface or hand was cleaned it was quickly covered in germs again, as soon as 2 hours following cleaning. A newer approach to both surface and hand hygiene is to utilize continuous disinfection materials. These new innovations allow the surface to self-disinfect without having to take doctors and nurses away from patients. Surfaces can remain cleaner for longer, allowing a reduction of germs and less exposure to patients. Hospitals are continuing to fight Hospital Acquired Infections through a multi-pronged approach. As these continuous disinfection technologies become available, they will integral to a hospital and patient’s fight against HAIs.

If you would like to learn more about innovative approaches to combatting HAIs, contact a member of the Microban team today.

1. Musu, M. et. al. Assessing Hand Hygiene Compliance Among Healthcare Workers in Six Intensive Care units. JPMH. 2017 Sept;58(3):E231-E237.

2. Cohen, B. et. al. Association Between Healthcare-Associated Infections and Exposure to Hospital Roommates and Previous Bed Occupants with the Same Organism. ICHE 2018 May;39(5):541-546.