1 CHALLENGE 3 PROJECTS
Problem: No one expects going to the doctor to be what makes one sick.
Yet, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reports that
roughly one in every 20 inpatients has an infection related to hospital care. The
infection rate is such a problem that HHS set an agency priority goal of reducing hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) by 40 percent by 30 September 2013.
At the heart of the infection rate is this squirm-inducing stat: Fewer than 50 percent of surfaces in a
room are cleaned after a hospital patient is discharged, according to a study in Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology. And only 36 percent of hospital employees are fully compliant with hand-washing regulations, according to a study in the American Journal of Medical Quality.
To address this dirty little secret, three new projects have introduced fresh approaches to promote
squeaky-clean rooms—and healthier patients. –Arianna Davis
If the best design ideas spring from nature, hospitals
might be wise to study the shark. The bumpy texture of its skin
resists the barnacle growth that plagues smooth-skinned creatures,
such as the whale.
With that in mind, Sharklet Technologies Incorporated launched a
series of projects to apply a shark’s bacteria-resistant skin pattern to medical
devices, including catheters and airway-management devices.
“One of our biggest project challenges has been figuring out how to
apply this specific technology to the unique materials and geometries
of different devices,” says Kelley Wanzeck, a project manager at the
Aurora, Colorado, USA-based biotech company.
Sharklet’s patterned surfaces have been shown to reduce
bacteria contamination up to 99.9 percent in comparison to
un-patterned ones, according to Ms. Wanzeck.
Projects currently in development are
scheduled to launch next year.
PROJECT TEAMS COMBAT HOSPITAL INFECTIONS
Copper is naturally bacteria-resistant, which makes it a go-
to metal for high-touch surfaces such as doorknobs and rail bars.
But executives at Pur Thread Technologies Incorporated saw a project
possibility in an unexpected surface: privacy curtains.
“If healthcare workers washed their hands between every touch—between
the doorknob and the privacy curtain, the curtain and the bed rail, the bed rail and
the monitor—they would have no time for patient care,” Pur Thread’s then-CEO
Kathryn Bowsher told Beckers ASC Review. “That’s the fundamental problem.”
To decrease the chance of contamination that exists with every touch, she
tasked a project team with developing a proprietary alloy of silver and copper
that could be spun into yarn and woven into everything from privacy curtains
to scrubs to bed sheets.
A 2012 study in the American Journal of Infection Control showed
that 92 percent of room curtains become contaminated within
one week of being laundered. Early versions of the copper
curtains have stayed contamination-free seven
times longer than traditional textiles.
While working on an HIV-prevention project in 2008,
epidemiologist Mark Stibich, PhD, learned that disinfecting a
hospital room could take up to an hour and frequently required toxic
fumes. So he launched a project to develop a faster, safer alternative.
Fast forward five years, and his company, Xenex Healthcare Services, has
released a remote-controlled robot that emits a strobe-like ultraviolet light
that kills viruses, bacteria and spores by destroying their DNA. The trash can-
sized machine can disinfect an entire room in roughly 10 minutes.
A US$125,000 robot may seem pricey, but it’s been shown to cut bacterial
contamination rates by a factor of 20, according to the University of Texas
MD Anderson Cancer Center, the first hospital to try the Xenex robot. That
means significant savings, Joanne Levin, the medical director of the infec-
tion-prevention program at Cooley Dickinson Hospital, told Bloom-
berg Businessweek, because each infection costs US$30,000 on
average to treat, according to the latest data from the
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In other words: Domo arigato, Dr.
PHOTO COUR TESY OF ARMA TIX
cost the U.S.
Source: Centers for Disease Control