As hospitals and healthcare facilities struggle to maintain a prestigious level of care under pressure created by rising cases of healthcare-associated infections (HAIs), like Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) – patient safety is at risk. The increase in cases and the lasting impacts of the pandemic and “tripledemic” have forced leaders in healthcare to re-evaluate current processes. To do so, these leaders have to look to new procedures and advancements in technology designed to ensure better patient safety and environments of care.
Technology has established its place in healthcare as a necessary part of monitoring, disinfecting and even performing life-saving procedures for patients by simplifying and innovating how healthcare workers do their jobs. From tracking patient vitals to upholding the internal ecosystem of the hospitals – new healthcare technology has always been an advocate for patients and staff. Now, the technology has grown to play a supplemental, but still necessary, role in the whole room and department disinfection procedures, like supplemental disinfection technology, which is becoming commonplace across healthcare facilities.
One way to do so is through Advanced Photocatalysis Technology (APT) which recreates the natural photolysis process by reducing harmful pathogens in ambient air.
The Current State of Healthcare Infections
Before diving much further into APT, it is essential to take a look at the current state of common hospital-onset and other Healthcare-Associated Infections. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and infection preventionists monitor healthcare-associated infections. Common examples of pathogens that can cause HAIs include Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Vancomycin Resistant Enterococcus species (VRE) and Clostridium difficile (C. diff), which put hospital communities at risk of readmissions and extensive care needed for the affected patients. In addition, recent studies have linked hospital-onset infections to an increased hospital stay, cost and patient death due to their severe nature and additional challenges that arise once infected.
According to the CDC, one in 31 patients contracted an HAI resulting in 72,000 deaths in 2015. While the past decade has seen efforts to reduce the rising cases through advanced training and monitoring, improving chemical substrates for surface disinfection has remained the top choice for avoiding infection. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic saw these episodic and surface infection prevention and disinfection efforts harder to perform under the increase of an airborne-spread pathogen, plus the reversal of years of infection prevention work as healthcare-associated infections began to rise. The antibiotic-resistant Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection is a superbug carried by a large percentage of patients in their nose or on their skin that is known to cause infections in the bloodstream or surgical sites and pneumonia. Over the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic (2020-2021), the CDC reported a 14% increase in MRSA-contributed HAIs among national acute-care hospitals.
Pandemic Causes Huge Hit to Labor and Disinfection Standards
Under the stress of the pandemic, the healthcare system also experienced a huge hit. While thousands of hospitals struggled to keep up with patients seeking extended care due to the last effects of the virus, burnout among healthcare workers increased, and labor numbers sharply declined soon after. Though the number of patients requiring care has fluctuated over the last few years – there is still a labor shortage among healthcare workers. This fact leaves hospitals spread thin when it comes to compliance with adhering to proper cleaning and disinfection protocols.
Cleaning and disinfection practices can feel rushed due to the expectation that staff will complete their tasks effectively and quickly so the next patient can be moved into the room, no matter how few staff members are available to disinfect the areas. Unfortunately, this issue means the staff performing disinfection may be missing contact points and leaving potential pathogens behind. While only 5% of U.S. hospital patients carry MRSA in their nose or on their skin, it also indicates that people are living with MRSA on their skin without apparent issues. However, if people carrying MRSA come to the hospital and leave MRSA behind on a bed railing or doorknob, the next person to pick up the bacteria can potentially be exposed. The new host may have a weaker immune system and contract the infection in the hospital setting.
A New Hope in Combatting MRSA Infections
A new study into the impact that 21st-century technology plays on the supplemental disinfection of hospital departments has proven ActivePure Technology’s efficacy in reducing MRSA surface-burdens. The study’s abstract published in the Open Forum of Infectious Diseases from the Infectious Diseases Society of America reveals the conclusions of the seven-month study first presented at ID Week 2022. When used as directed, a southern Louisiana-based hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU) experienced a statistically significant 98% reduction in MRSA surface-burden levels from baseline to final post-activation test while using ActivePure induct technology. During the trial period, the hospital also experienced a 100% decline in hospital-onset MRSA infections. The study results show promising hope in the role and efforts that 21st-century medical devices can play in disinfecting patient rooms and whole departments.
As healthcare systems move through the pandemic, new and different challenges have had to be addressed. While the last few years have placed efforts on preventing the spread of SARS-CoV-2, or COVID-19, the continued threat of MRSA and other HAIs is a prominent concern among infection preventionists that remains. The results of the study from ActivePure prove that Advanced Photocatalytic Technology is usable in more areas than just infection prevention against the pandemic, and instead is a technology that can span a vast range of concerns.
Processes that were working before are not working the same, and using new tools like advanced photocatalysis technology will help meet all patient care goals. With an HVAC product successfully decreasing surface contaminants, the hospital’s environmental care services can create a new process to ensure additional disinfection in the environment of care. At the end of the day, surgeons, EVS staff, physicians, nurses, laboratory staff, volunteers, and so many more have one goal – improving patient safety.
Caitlin Stowe, MPH, CPH, CIC, CPHQ, VA-BC is Vice President of Clinical Affairs and Medical Liaison for ActivePure Medical.