Health care-associated infection (HAI) rates in the U.S. are alarming. In fact, more people die from HAI than from AIDS, breast cancer, and auto accidents combined.1 These infections are the fourth leading cause of death resulting in 2,000,000 infections, 100,000 deaths, and costing $45 billion annually.2 To make matters worse, 28% of the bacteria that most frequently causes HAIs are resistant to preferred antibiotic treatments.3
While incidences of some infections has fallen significantly from 2008 to 2012, there have been little decreases for both hospital-onset Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bloodstream infections.4 C. difficile is the leading HAI associated with 12% of all infections causing 14,000 U.S. deaths each year. MRSA is second at 10.7%.5
Unfortunately traditional manual cleaning protocols that use bleach or ammonium compounds can be impractical and/or ineffective in eliminating these plus many other pathogens. These chemicals require long contact on hard surfaces and are not suitable for soft surfaces, e.g., drapes or medical equipment. Some health care organizations are turning to new non-touch technologies to complement their standard cleaning regimens.
Pulsed xenon ultraviolet light (PX-UV) room disinfection, developed by Xenex Disinfection Services, was introduced in 2010 and has been dubbed the “Germ-Zapping Robot.” It uses high intensity broad-spectrum UV irradiation in the 200–320 nm range to penetrate cell walls of microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, mold, fungus and spores, and kills them within 10 to 15 minutes per room at an efficiency rate of 99.9%.6
Effectiveness of PX-UV
- Westchester Medical Center had a 20% drop in C. difficile and multi-drug resistant organisms infections7
- Cooley Dickinson Hospital reported a 53% reduction in C. difficile infection rates8
- MD Anderson Cancer Center reported a 30% facility-wide C. difficile reduction and a 30% vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus reduction9
- A 2012 study conducted in the Central Texas Veterans Health Care System compared standard manual cleaning procedures using bleach with PX-UV disinfection. After manual cleaning, there was a 76% reduction in viral load vs. 98% reduction with PX-UV for bacterial heterotrophic plate counts (HPC), and 91% vs. 99% reduction for MRSA.10
- At a VA facility located in Texas, before PX-UV disinfection, 187 (98.4%) of the surfaces were contaminated with aerobic bacteria; this was reduced to 169 (88.9%) surfaces after disinfection. Levels of bacteria were reduced from 74 to 20 colonies overall.11
CMS is using C. difficile and MRSA infection rates as performance indicators in the Value Based Purchasing (VBP) and Hospital Acquired Condition (HAC) programs. HAIs constitute 75% of the score and hospitals in the bottom quartile may be penalized by a 1% reduction in Medicare reimbursement. Implementing a more robust disinfection program may become crucial not only for patient safety but for viability of under-performing health care institutions.