Tony Sarraf
Vice President and Market Head (North Latin America)
Ecolab

Podcast

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Expert Contributor

Automation for Healthcare Hygiene and Disinfection

By Tony Sarraf | Thu, 08/25/2022 - 10:00

Hygiene is essential to guarantee health in every moment of our daily life but it has even greater importance when it comes to the health industry, where patients place their faith, time and money to cure their ailments, not to see them worsen or multiply. In hospitals, the first step to guarantee cleanliness and disinfection is hand hygiene, identified as the most effective method to prevent healthcare-associated infections (known as HAIs).

Every year, according to US data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), millions of patients acquire an HAI and fall sick. According to the CDC, HAIs in US hospitals have direct medical costs of at least US$28.4 billion each year. We lack strong related data in Mexico, but according to UNAM (National Autonomus University of Mexico), it is estimated that these types of infections affect between 10,000 and 50,000 patients a year. 

In the aftermath of COVID-19 and its effects, where thousands visited hospitals and clinics to seek or continue the ongoing treatment of non-related ailments and found themselves sick shortly after due to contact with SARS-CoV2, it has become critical to follow strict hygiene and disinfection protocols for medical personnel, tools and equipment to prevent further spread of the coronavirus and other diseases, and to avoid jeopardizing the health of patients and damaging the reputation of renowned public and private health centers and institutions. 

Although hand hygiene is top of mind for most health practitioners in clinics and hospitals, there are new mechanisms to guarantee disinfection across medical facilities. For instance, Ecolab has developed technology that can boost and function as a smart reminder of when and where health practitioners must keep their hands clean. It is designed to help hospitals achieve consistent and comprehensive hygiene levels to prevent illnesses and death.

These systems provide monitoring of a personnel's hygiene practices near a patient's bedside, holding healthcare workers accountable and sending them real-time alerts and guidance for improvements to their hygiene practices to prevent unsafe interactions.

Recently, Ecolab implemented this system at five hospitals in the US, where we saw a total of 1,609 hospital beds increasing the levels of compliance with hand hygiene protocols up to 90 percent. The number might seem irrelevant to readers but keep in mind that according to the CDC, hand hygiene compliance in the country hovers around a disappointing 40 percent.  

In most countries, medical practitioners must enforce regulations and best practices that monitor, prevent and control HAIs at hospitals. These infection tracking systems are regulated by active reporting and knowledge of disease cases across jurisdictions to assess their behavior and risk inside and outside medical facilities. The measures considered by health policy regulators include: 

Compliance 

Training 

Supply 

Monitoring and Feedback 

To comply, there are technologies and solutions that automate and standardize hygiene, cleaning and disinfecting processes and protocols, such as the system I mentioned previously. However, they would be deemed ineffective if a medical facility could not ensure safe levels and high quality of water at its premises even in tandem with other disinfecting solutions, such as enzymatic soaps or high-grade detergents. 

To achieve safe levels and cleanliness in their water supply, considering its scarcity and current high demand across the globe, the healthcare sector and hospitals must put in place technology that allows for responsible tracking, recycling and reuse of water. In addition to these, there is the possibility of around-the-clock smart reporting of water metrics within a facility through computer systems that also measure concentrations of pollutants, corrosion and harmful substances for patients and stakeholders.   

Another method to ensure hygiene and disinfection at hospitals to prevent HAIs includes the installation of disinfectant dispensers with accurate dosing, including substances such as ethyl or isopropyl alcohol, iodopovidone or chlorhexidine gluconate to avoid secondary effects when exceeding dosage quantities, waste or contact with other risk surfaces. 

In addition to water recycling systems, handwashing and disinfectant dispensers with accurate dosing, there are a final series of solutions and technology that include soaps, detergents and cleaners that are designed for specific areas, functions, medical equipment and facility surfaces. Each one of these is to be used for specific disinfection and hygiene tasks, such as cleaning surgical tools and equipment found at hospitals and health centers.

Lastly, all hygiene and disinfection protocols and activities must be measurable and susceptible to automation to ensure their strict implementation and functionality as well as the impact on natural resources on a larger scale, such as water and energy, to reduce the spread of infection and diseases at health centers and keep the reputation of a facility unharmed.

Photo by:   Tony Sarraf