Fortunately, operating a UV disinfection system is fairly straightforward. After initial training from the vendor, most facilities are up and running in a few days.

The room number and employee’s user ID are entered into the system manually or via a barcode scanner. For hospitals that opt to use bar codes, the employee scans the bar code at the door, identifying the room and confirming that the employee is about to enter that room. The information is then downloaded to the UV device via the barcode scanner once the system is turned on.

And once machines are on, there are safety features in place to protect the staff and building occupants. For example, some devices are operated via remote control; others feature a countdown, allowing the employee to exit the room in a certain period of time and shut the door before the system starts. After it has started, employees can access the device wirelessly to check cycle status on some machines. If a user enters a room before the cycle is complete, a motion sensor shuts the system down immediately.

When using UV light, the restroom is disinfected first so that the worker can close the door and clean the patient’s room while the device is running. Next, the device runs for one cycle lasting 5 to 10 minutes (depending on the manufacturer) on each side of the patient bed to avoid shadowing problems.

As Scherberger points out, there are limitations to UV disinfection that must be taken into account when cleaning a patient room.

“It is not absorbed into soft surfaces, such as mattresses or cubicle curtains, and it does not kill bacteria where the light doesn’t reach,” he notes. “But when used properly, it is very effective.”

One of the benefits of UV systems is the ability for EVS staff to track usage and compliance data. This falls into the growing category of internet of things (IoT).

“You can manage rooms, locations and operators, and that’s transferred over the cloud for reporting analytics,” says Velez. “You can also use the reporting features on the back end to collect that information and analyze how the device is being used, when it’s used and who’s using it. So you can improve your workflow processes and provide targeted training, if needed.”

Xenex tracks each of MD Anderson’s machines remotely and provides the hospital with monthly usage reports that the staff can access via an online portal. The reports indicate how many times the machines were used and how long they were used for. Device sensors allow users to track the machine’s position in the room.

Armed with this information, Beene can discern if the machines are being used properly.

“Sometimes we find employees run the machine in one location versus different positions, or they’ll cut it off before the runtime is complete,” she says. “We look to see if it’s from one person or a multitude of people, and from there we’ll do additional training or progressive discipline, if necessary.”

Furthermore, Xenex data is integrated with the hospital’s electronic medical records to improve workflow processes.

“Staff can be notified when a patient is going to be discharged and UV light is needed, which is helpful for housekeeping,” notes Chemaly. “It’s more proactive than relying on nurses to let them know which rooms need  disinfecting.”

The Big Picture

It’s extremely beneficial, but EVS isn’t the only department benefiting from UV technology. Infection Control departments can compare UV usage data with HAI data, thereby tracking and analyzing infection rates over time.

“This is a good surveillance program for infection control purposes,” says Chemaly. “We collect infection rates on every type of multi-drug resistant organism and share it with the staff and with different committees. We can see the impact of using this machine, and we’re happy that our infection rates are going down.”

Healthcare providers may balk at the cost of implementing UV technology, but these devices can have positive impacts hospital-wide that far outweigh their price tag.

“Information technology drives us all, so hospitals are required — not only from a practical perspective, but a liability perspective — to document as it relates to HAIs,” says Boyle. “So being able to verify records is extremely important with any terminal cleaning protocol. If you’re cited and graded as a lower level hospital, you’re in jeopardy of losing up to 3 percent of Medicare reimbursement hospital-wide.”

Chemaly says that he sleeps better at night knowing UV technology is being used to reduce the threat of bacteria from the environment.

“Our cancer patients are compromised, and we take that very seriously,” he says. “We don’t want them to get any infections from our hospital — especially multi-drug resistant infections that are very hard to treat or may result in death. I like to look at this as a safety net to make sure we don’t rely only on human beings to do a good job.” 

KASSANDRA KANIA is a freelance writer based in Charlotte, North Carolina.

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Augmenting Cleaning With Disinfecting Technology