News: Top experts meet to advance holistic solutions to superbug infections spread by healthcare surfaces

Post Author: Linda Lybert, Executive Director
August 18, 2017

Healthcare Surfaces Summit 2017 to build on initial success developing integrated solutions to combat surface-spread healthcare acquired infections — Hospital-acquired superbug survivor highlights the human costs of these deadly, preventable diseases

DALLAS, TEXAS, AUG. 18, 2017 – A cutting edge collaboration of experts from around the nation is meeting in Dallas next week to identify sustainable ways to reduce the rising menace to patients and healthcare workers posed by healthcare-acquired superbug infections (HAIs). The Healthcare Surfaces Summit 2017 is building on the success of a 2015 inaugural session when a passionate group of healthcare industry, academic, scientific, manufacturing, regulatory and service sector professionals met and realized each had a different view of the problem of HAIs and surfaces, and different solutions. For most, this was the first time they had the opportunity to look at HAIs from a holistic perspective, with the aim of formulating integrated solutions to the rising worldwide incidence of drug-resistant superbug and other infections spread by healthcare surfaces. The 2017 Summit is being convened to further advance their efforts.
Both hard surfaces used in environmental design and medical devices and instruments and soft surfaces such as scrubs, bedding, mattresses and other textiles have been identified as having an active role in the spread of HAIs and antibiotic-resistant superbugs — a major issue for patients, workers and healthcare institutions.1 The Centers for Disease Control estimates that one out of every 25 hospitalized patients will acquire an HAI, with close to three-quarters of a million Americans infected each year and an estimated 75,000 deaths.2 While the exact costs of HAIs are difficult to calculate, they are very high — a study supported by the National Institutes of Health estimated that the overall direct costs of HAIs to hospitals could range from $28 billion to $45 billion each year.3 And these enormous sums do not include the substantial economic, social and emotional costs borne by patients and their families.
The human costs will be powerfully illustrated at the 2017 Summit when HAI survivor, activist and blogger Mary Millard presents a keynote address relating her near-death battle with a resistant infection acquired during treatment for a cardiovascular emergency. While combating the HAI, Ms. Millard endured multiple hospitalizations and medical procedures, and she continues to need costly and debilitating treatments that required her to give up her job and active lifestyle. Ms. Millard’s courageous response to these challenges includes mounting a campaign to stimulate education and action to combat superbug HAIs. Her address is expected to be one of the highlights of the Summit.
“What is most frustrating about the enormous costs of HAIs is that the majority are preventable,” said Linda Lybert, founder and President of the Healthcare Surfaces Summit. “We are focusing our prevention campaign on surfaces as a foundational issue because they are implicated in many HAIs and their complexity can stymie prevention efforts. More thorough cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces is not enough. Not all surfaces can be cleaned in the same way, and cleaning can actually cause damage, often unseen, that supports the proliferation of harmful microbes that are then transmitted throughout the hospital.”
Ms. Lybert continued, “Reducing the pathogens on healthcare surfaces is often viewed as a design and construction issue when it is much more than that. There is science behind the spread of infections via surfaces. It is not enough to understand the physical characteristics of specific surfaces and surface materials, nor to become expert in the latest disinfection agents and protocols. This information must be combined with an understanding of microbiology, the physical environment and human behavioral factors. This is why a broad systems-based approach is essential and why we view our unique interdisciplinary collaboration that dissolves expert silos and promotes a holistic view as so valuable, with the potential to achieve real breakthroughs against HAIs.”
At the inaugural 2015 Summit, participants brainstormed issues and hurdles to success, ultimately creating four Initiative Workgroups that have been tasked with addressing different aspects of the overall problem. Each of the Workgroups includes cross-disciplinary experts who are collectively combining their understanding of infection prevention and microbiology, cleaning and disinfection, facilities management, engineering and environmental services, manufacturing, research and regulatory protocols, and patient care and human behavior to develop integrated solutions that reduce the spread of preventable HAIs. At the 2017 Summit, the Workgroups will meet again to review progress, cross-collaborate with other groups and identify their scope of work for the coming year.
Participating expert Dr. Syed Sattar, Emeritus Professor of Microbiology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Ottawa, and Chief Scientific Officer, CREM Co, Inc. noted, “Among the most valuable aspects of participating in the Summit are the insights I have gained into how all the elements of these complex issues need to be considered when formulating solutions. Collaborating with world class colleagues from many relevant disciplines has enabled me to see how solutions focused on my area of expertise–environmental microbiology–cannot be considered in isolation. The system-wide effects of any one change mean that lasting solutions can only be achieved in an integrated fashion. And while our specific areas of expertise may initially divide us, we are united in our commitment to use this rare opportunity to develop solutions that will make a real difference in reducing the worldwide scourge of HAIs.”

The Healthcare Surfaces Summit 2017 is being held August 22-23, 2017 in Dallas Texas. Participation is by invitation only. For more information on the Summit, contact Linda Lybert, (425) 223-0508, or

1 – See Curr Opin Infect Dis. 2013 Aug;26(4):338-44. doi: 10.1097/QCO.0b013e3283630f04.
2 – See
3 – Expert Rev Pharmacoecon Outcomes Res. 2009 Oct; 9(5): 417-422. doi: 10.1586/erp.09.53

About the Healthcare Surfaces Summit

The Healthcare Surfaces Summit (HSS) is a cutting-edge collaboration of thought leaders to evaluate and understand all aspects of the complex role environmental and other surfaces play in transmitting pathogens that cause infection and illness in healthcare settings. Its mission is to reduce preventable infections by mobilizing industry, academia, science, regulatory, and service organizations to reduce the transmission of surface related pathogens. The Healthcare Services Summit has established cross-disciplinary Initiative Workgroups to develop solutions, best practices, and research hypotheses for the development of scientific evidence-based best practice recommendations that support policy and regulatory change. HSS is a nonprofit corporation supported by sponsors, donors and partners.

Healthcare Surfaces Institute is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization; all donations are tax-deductible.

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