Preventing Surface-Related Infections
People enter a healthcare facility for a variety of reasons, but ultimately to improve their health and well-being. Unfortunately, 1 out of every 25 patients who enter the healthcare facility will contract an illness completely unrelated to what they are being treated for.
As a public health issue, healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) have been deemed preventable by regulatory and clinical experts for many years. Despite the best effort by healthcare professionals, HAIs continue to be a challenge.
Surfaces are a virtually overlooked issue due to the complexity of the problem. The focus has been on cleaning and disinfection of surfaces, but that is only one aspect of the problem.
1 out of every 25 patients
who enter a healthcare facility will contract an illness completely unrelated to the purpose of their visit
There are three overall issues that must be addressed before we can successfully prevent HAIs spread by contaminated surfaces:
Issue #1: Surface Selection
The problem begins in the design phase of the built environment and the design of products that are used for patient care. There is a general lack of understanding and knowledge about the impact surface materials and composition can have on the ability to successfully clean, disinfect, and/or sterilize them.
We believe that healthcare design professionals (including planners, architects, interior designers, and others in the field) could be the bridge to the educational component necessary to successfully win the war against healthcare-associated infections.
Issue #2: Cleaning and Disinfection Compatibility
When disinfectants and other cleaning products are not compatible with the surfaces being cleaned, damage occurs and creates microbial reservoirs. This microscopic damage is often not visible to the eye and provides pathogens safe harbor from the disinfectants meant to destroy them. This problem affects environmental surfaces, medical devices and equipment, furnishings, and more.
HSI promotes comprehensive evaluation of surface disinfection compatibility to mitigate damage to surface materials and products in the healthcare environment.
Issue #3: Surface Testing Standards
It is shocking to know that there are currently no minimum standards or requirements for testing to validate that a surface can be safely cleaned and disinfected using EPA registered hospital-grade disinfectants. Moreover, the information that does exist to support surface selection is confusing and fragmented.
HSI will soon be launching its patent pending Surface Materials and Products Certification program to provide this testing for surface materials and assembled products.
Finding Solutions Begins with Understanding the Problem
Sustainable solutions can’t be found without identifying and understanding all aspects of the problem. Microbes are transmitted via the air, water, and surfaces. Within each of these three categories, there are factors that support transmission. Air and water transmission of pathogens have been the subject of extensive research. However, surface research has focused primarily on effective cleaning and disinfection without understanding what the problems are and the full scope of the problem. Sustainable solutions can’t be found until all aspects of the problem are understood and addressed.
If you are ready to drive change in your organization, read our 5 Steps to Prevent Surface-Related Infections.
The Social and Financial Impact of Addressing Surfaces in the Spread of HAIs
Failure to appropriately address surfaces as fomites has led to:
- Increased spread of healthcare-associated infections.
- Dangerous disparities in infection prevention practices and protocols.
- Major financial and capital loss for healthcare facilities when repair and replacement of products must be done long before an expected life cycle has been met.
By successfully addressing the foundational problem of surfaces in the healthcare environment, we can:
- Reduce risks for patients and healthcare workers.
- Save lives by reducing the spread of pathogens via surfaces.
- Select surfaces and products that support the needs of specific environments.
- Reduce room turnover times by selecting surfaces that support efficient and effective cleaning and disinfection.
- Reduce high costs for repair and replacement of damaged equipment and surfaces due to surface disinfectant incompatibility.
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