Workers clean a fake hospital room at a trade show
Healthcare was a clear focus of the event with live demonstrations of cleaning patient rooms and an operating theater Image courtesy of RAI Amsterdam

Healthcare acquired infections already garner a lot of attention in the cleaning industry, but the spotlight is likely to grow and shine brighter. 

In the United States, 4 percent of all patients contract a healthcare acquired infection. The rate is higher in European countries and significantly higher in underdeveloped countries. 

Hospitals promote adhering to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) five moments of hand hygiene, but studies show that this is not enough to prevent infections. One of WHO’s five moments recommends hand washing after touching the patient’s surrounding surfaces, but it does not specify other frequently touched objects such as chart holders, elevator buttons, hand sanitizer dispensers and medicine cabinets. To truly limit cross-contamination, people need to wash hands after touching these surfaces, too, says Peter Teska, global infection prevention application expert, Diversey, Charlotte, North Carolina. 

The average patient receives 82 visits a day from staff and family. This allows for plenty of opportunities for infection, even if people are practicing hand hygiene. For example, this much interaction leads to a bed rail being touched 256 times a day, or 16 to 20 times per waking hour, says Teska. 

Unfortunately for patients in the United States, bed rails are only disinfected once per day. And, studies show that two hours after disinfecting, the bed rail is just as contaminated as before cleaning, says Dr. Ojan Assadian, senior consultant, Department for Hospital Epidemiology and Infection Control, Medical University of Vienna. 

Improving hand hygiene compliance will have the greatest impact on reducing infection rates, says Assadian. However, surfaces near the patient need more frequent disinfecting as well. 

One study found that there is equal frequency of MRSA when healthcare workers touch the patient as when they touch surfaces near the patient. So, even if hospital staff practice hand hygiene (and no hospital has 100 percent compliance rate), there will still be frequent cross-contamination from infected surfaces. 

The reality is cleaning staffs need to visit patient rooms multiple times a day. In addition, disinfecting wipes should be made available in the room for hospital staff, family members and even the patient to use on surfaces. Teska recommends six key times to disinfect surrounding surfaces: before placing a food tray, after any procedure involving feces, after dressing wounds, after assistance with vomiting, when surfaces are visibly soiled, and after bed baths. 

Patients in hospitals already have compromised immune systems. Anything that can be done to make them less susceptible to germs should be considered. In addition to talking with healthcare customers about hand hygiene compliance, distributors should also ask if adding disinfecting wipes to a cleaning program makes sense. 

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