Three Nebraska healthcare organizations are participating in a research study to test a new device that measures the cleanliness of different surfaces in patient care rooms. The intent of the device is to help housekeeping staff find the most effective cleaning procedures for controlling germs that cause hospital infections.

The study is being conducted by a group of physicians and researchers at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Neb., and will include the Regional West Medical Center, Columbus Community Hospital, and the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

"The three study sites were selected because they are high quality health care facilities with varied size and geographic location," said Angela Hewlett, MD, MS, an Infectious Diseases specialist at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and study co-investigator.

At each test site, a small area in a patient care room is sampled with a small stick that is put into a device for measuring contaminants in the environment. The results of this measurement are available within seconds. Readings are used to educate the hospital's housekeeping staff on the best practices in hospital cleaning. Results will be studied by the research team to determine the best use for this detection device to maximize environmental cleanliness in hospitals.

Amanda Sabo, RN, BSN, Regional West's Infection Control Director and Jeanie Miller, RN, a Quality Resource Data Analyst, are coordinating the Regional West study. Sabo said that data collection for the study has been ongoing since last April.

"Two times each week we test 20 sites in a room that has been cleaned and made ready for a new patient after a discharge," said Sabo. "These numbers are sent to UNMC and we receive a monthly composite score."

Sabo said that education for housekeeping employees is based on those scores and is coordinated by research personnel. "We have been phone conferencing with the other test sites about our results and will be working with our housekeeping department to implement changes in cleaning methods."

"We are happy to work with Regional West Medical Center on this exciting project", said Dr. Hewlett. "The information generated by this study will help us better understand how to keep hospitalized patients safe from healthcare-associated infections."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1.7 million hospitalized patients are stricken with healthcare-associated infections annually in the United States. These infections are responsible for close to 100,000 deaths each year. Intense efforts have focused on ways to protect patients and prevent these infections from occurring.

The study is sponsored by the Department of Defense since military hospitals also face infection challenges.