Curing the HAI Epidemic: Four Steps to Reverse Hospital-Acquired Infection Rates
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HospitalsMarch 28, 2019

Curing the HAI Epidemic: Four Steps to Reverse Hospital-Acquired Infection Rates

by David St. Clair, Chairman and CFO, Halosil International

Hospitals and long-term care facilities are battling hospital acquired infections (HAIs)—and research indicates the war has not yet been won. In fact, this year marked the highest rate of penalties against hospitals in the five years since the federal government launched the Hospital Acquired Conditions (HAC) Reduction Program, with a total of 110 hospitals being penalized for the fifth consecutive year.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HAIs account for nearly 1.7 million infections each year and 99,000 associated deaths. This is aggravated in no small part by high turnover rates, confined spaces, weakened immune systems amongst patients, and growing bacterial resistance.

And yet, HAIs are nothing new. In fact, the most prevalent and resistant HAIs have been making headlines for years, and hospitals have been collectively focused on adopting more effective and efficient disinfection protocols. Why, despite widespread efforts to thwart infections, does the tide of rising HAIs have yet to reverse?

With one out of every 31 patients still acquiring at least one healthcare-associated infection, it’s clear that the fight against HAIs is far from over. What can hospitals do to better address this widespread epidemic?

1. Go Beyond Standard Protocols

The most minimalistic approach, strictly adhering to mandated manual cleaning and disinfection practices is often the first step in reducing HAIs. The reality remains that even when best practices are followed, pathogens are minimized rather than fully eradiated, resulting in common HAIs such as surgical site infections, pneumonia, and C. difficile. Necessary, but only partially effective standard practices—such as washing hands after every patient, minimizing unnecessary use of catheters and removing them as soon as possible, and wearing masks, hair covers, gowns, and gloves when appropriate—are but foundational steps in mitigating HAIs. Taking the fight against HAIs seriously means doing more.

The key to reducing HAIs is eliminating disease-causing pathogens from all surfaces, particularly when cleaning rooms before the next patient. However, not all disinfectants can get the job done. For instance, quaternary ammonium chloride (also known as quats) is popular in disinfectants because it is relatively inexpensive and effective. Yet, disinfectants containing quats are subject to “quat binding,” which can render these cleaning solutions ineffective when they come in contact with certain materials that inactivate or impair their germ-killing performance. This leaves infectious materials on equipment long after one patient leaves and the next arrives. For greater efficacy, facilities require a disinfection strategy that cuts through inconsistent cleaning materials and standardizes effectiveness.

2. Understand Solution Strengths & Shortcomings

As HAIs continue to intensify, hospitals are increasingly pairing standard cleaning practices with whole room disinfection systems. One technique that has gained a lot of attention is the use of (UV) disinfection technology to sterilize hospital rooms and other infection-prone areas between patients. These UV-based disinfection systems leverage UV wavelengths to eliminate pathogens touched by light, with results showing a 97.7% pathogen removal in operating rooms.

While flashy UV systems have an inherent appeal for their sleek appearance, their 97.7% kill rate falls short. In fact, systems like these leave shadowed areas like corners and the underside of bedside rails virtually untouched. Mattress covers in particular, which lie hidden from sight in bed frames, also pose challenges since they can retain infections like C. difficile post terminal cleaning. Be sure to make an honest inventory of each prospective solution’s strengths and weaknesses. Is the solution optimized for maximum impact? Does it have critical shortcomings that will leave your hospital exposed?

3. Define & Standardize Operational Processes

Even the most advanced whole room disinfection system cannot make a measurable impact from the closet. As with any operational process, practice makes perfect. Hospitals that adopt whole room disinfection systems must take the time to clearly define operational processes, then stick to them.

In addition to consistency, the right frequency is key. In fact, some hospitals may not be leveraging their whole room disinfection systems as frequently as needed. Despite the prevalence of HAIs, many hospitals still harness whole room disinfection only in rooms where an outbreak has been noted. Alternately, an optimal practice is to disinfect rooms before an outbreak occurs, protecting all patients equally.

4. Set Your Sights on Zero Tolerance

In an effort to provide patients full transparency, the CDC offers a host of data on HAI prevalence at the state and national level. Meanwhile, Medicare.gov provides hospital specific metrics that are benchmarked against the national average. As a result, hospitals are naturally encouraged to work towards better than benchmark HAI rates. However, merely beating the benchmark leaves much to be desired, particularly given the alarming nature of national averages.

In order to reverse the tide of HAI rates, hospitals must instead set their sights on eradicating HAIs altogether. This same mentality should be applied to each and every disinfection cycle. Only a 6-log kill rate, the highest possible validated efficacy, is adequate when it comes to combatting dangerous pathogens. Look for a solution that is validated to kill 99.9999% of even the most resistant C. difficile spores.

Eradicating HAIs, Together

At Halosil, our mission is to put an end to harmful HAIs by bringing 6-log disinfection to the many places and spaces found in hospitals and long term care environments. With the highest possible validated efficacy, our Halo Disinfection System® achieves uniform coverage through the dry fogging delivery of our proprietary HaloMist® solution, representing the only standard suited for today’s intense HAI landscape.

Ready to eliminate HAIs in your hospital environment? Call Halosil today.