For over a decade, the Center for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) has considered the prevention of hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) a top priority. The CDC estimates that 1.7 million patients are infected during hospitalizations each year. And of those infected, over 99,000 die as a result. Even though the statistics from their 2017 National and State HAI Progress Report indicate that progress is being made in the reduction and prevention of HAIs (22% reduction in acute-care HAIs from 2011 to 2015), new challenges like drug-resistant pathogens continue to illustrate just how important the effort remains.
Increased awareness of hospital-acquired infections has led to positive developments.
Though the news may seem dire, the increased awareness and focus on prevention of HAIs has led to many positive developments. The cooperation of multiple agencies and healthcare organizations around the world has led to improvements through new technologies like UV disinfecting machines, artificial intelligence supported healthcare (AI), and handwashing monitoring systems. Though these technologies are promising, proper cleaning remains one of the best ways to prevent and reduce the spread of HAIs and drug-resistant infections.
In this blog, we provide four tips to improve healthcare facility cleaning for the prevention of HAIs.
Know Your Enemy
In order to best clean for the prevention of HAIs, it’s important to be familiar with the target organisms that are responsible for the majority of patient infections. A few of the top offenders in healthcare settings include:
- Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
- Vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE)
- Clostridium difficile (C. diff)
MRSA is a common HAI
Not all of these HAI-causing pathogens are created equal. For instance, some strains of VREs are extremely difficult to remove and can linger for up to four months on a dry surface. That’s why it’s vital to understand which organism/s you’re dealing with, and which cleaning processes are most successful for the prevention and control of these harmful pathogens. For more information on the common HAI-causing pathogens in a healthcare setting, click here.
Use the Two-Step Process
The CDC recommends using the two-step process of cleaning for the prevention of HAIs. The first step in the process entails removing unwanted soils from all surfaces with a cleaning solution. The second step consists of disinfecting/sanitizing the freshly cleaned surfaces. The two-step method is important to ensure the prevention and spread of HAIs. Unfortunately, one-step cleaner/disinfectants cannot be trusted. Why? Because dangerous pathogens can use soils for harborage. And disinfectants require a certain dwell time or contact time to control or kill the organism. If the pathogen is hiding under the soil, the disinfectant may never reach the organism. For a more in-depth look at the two-step process of cleaning, read our blog, “Are You Using the Two-Step Process of Cleaning?”
Follow a two-step process of cleaning to prevent HAIs
Adhere to Dwell Times
As mentioned above, not all pathogens are created equal. Cleaners must adhere to the disinfectant product label recommendations. EPA-approved disinfectants are always accompanied by a safety data sheet (SDS) which provides dwell times for efficacy against different organisms. (More information on dwell times here).
Test and Retest
Just because a surface may look and smell clean does not mean that it is. Some pathogens are extremely difficult to control and may remain on surfaces for months. There are various technologies available to test hospital surfaces for harmful pathogens. One popular and widely accepted method of testing cleaning efficacy is the ATP meter, which can detect Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) through bioluminescent technology. ATP is a universal molecule found in and around all living cells. When ATP is detected on a surface it may signal the need for improved cleaning. For more information on testing for clean, see this informative article by the American Society for Microbiology.
The prevention of HAIs is a monumental undertaking, and it requires the cooperation of all hospital stakeholders. Education and training are key in cleaning for the prevention of HAIs. As health organizations around the world collect more and more data, more helpful technologies and improved procedures will emerge.