Geisinger Medical Center provides care to more than 2 million residents throughout central and northeastern Pennsylvania every year. The health system includes seven hospitals currently, with plans to welcome two more to the fold. The organization’s solid financial and revenue situation has allowed it to add technology during a time when many other facilities are cutting back.

“Geisinger’s approach has been to invest in more aggressive means of combating multiple drug resistant organisms,” says Jack VanReeth, Geisinger’s manager of environmental services.

The department recently added ultra-violet room disinfection technology, as well as hydrogen peroxide room fumigation technology. It also will soon add a new disinfectant — one that claims to kill C. diff in a pleasant-smelling and less-toxic formula.

Staff employs the ultra-violet technology for every isolation discharge, as well as in operating and emergency rooms. Hydrogen peroxide fumigation comes into play when the hospital discharges a C. diff patient.

VanReeth explains using these technologies with every discharge would simply take too much time.

“While it’s possible to move to that in the future, we have many discharges every day and would need a significant number of these very expensive units to do it,” he says. “Not only that but using these units would add 10 to 15 minutes to the turnaround time for every bed upon discharge, making it challenging to maintain our budgeted level of admissions.”

However, the new disinfectant — a combination peracetic acid and hydrogen peroxide formula — will be used in every room, every day. This chemical is formulated in such a way that it does not have the typical odor associated with peracetic acid and the hope is that it will significantly reduce the possibility of spreading C. diff among patients while creating efficiencies.

Currently, a housekeeper cleans the room with a hospital-grade disinfectant then re-cleans the beds, furniture and 14 high-touch points with a stronger solution that has a C. diff kill claim. The new product will enable workers to clean these patient’s rooms in one step.

“Though the new products are significantly more expensive, it was a worthwhile investment because we don’t want to see the impact of nosocomial infections and the financial implications that come with them,” VanReeth says.

At Mercy, Green has also used technology to create efficiencies and maintain clean and disinfected surfaces. The department uses an illumination tool attached to mops and brooms to enhance a worker’s ability to see and remove particulate matter from hard surfaces.

“We started using that light, and it was amazing,” Green says. “We found that our workers were bypassing the dust mopping and going straight to wet mopping. But with this technology, they could see the dirt on the floor and began dust mopping more thoroughly.”

Adding new technologies, however, is not the total answer, cautions Heller, who explains they provide an added measure of assurance, but do not replace cleaning.

“My worry is they come at a big ticket price so hospitals might go into it thinking that by using these things they can somehow cut back on cleaning and disinfection,” he says. “But if they go into it with that mindset, it’s a recipe for failure. There is no question that these technologies work when they are used as a complement to other technologies in particularly troubled environments.”

When adding technologies, Heller suggests managers consider the following:
• Does the technology work?
• Will it make a difference to the clinical outcome?
• Finally, is it a solution? Is using the product as intended affordable and practical, and will it fit in with current clinical and operational practices?

RONNIE GARRETT is a freelance writer based in Fort Atkinson, Wis.

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