Enhanced Environmental Disinfection Systems: Can They Help You Reduce Infection Rates?

May 2, 2011 | Evaluations & Guidance


Infections acquired during a patient’s hospital stay are a serious, and ongoing, problem in healthcare. Not only do healthcare-associated infections (HAIs; also known as nosocomial infections) affect the health status of patients, they also affect a facility’s reputation and its bottom line. In addition, HAIs relate to several of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ “never events”—preventable, serious adverse events that should not occur in a healthcare facility. These factors give hospitals a great deal of incentive to reduce infection rates.

Hospitals tackle HAIs in a number of ways. For instance, they encourage compliance with handwashing guidelines and implement best practice infection control guidelines, both of which have been proven to reduce infection rates. They also reduce environmental contamination—the environment in this case being everything in a patient room, such as equipment, furniture, and walls, all of which could harbor pathogens—by routinely cleaning and disinfecting patient rooms after patient discharge or transfer.

It’s not always clear, however, how HAIs are spread and how best to address them. Factors such as the way a patient is exposed to the infectious agent (skin contact, ingestion, or inhalation), the infectious agent load, the virulence of the infectious agent, and the frequency of the exposure will all influence how many patients will develop infections. Added to these variables are patient-related factors such as age, general health, and reason for hospitalization, which all influence infection risks. It is also currently unclear how high microbial environmental contamination levels must be before the risk of patient infection becomes unacceptably high. With so many variables, healthcare facilities face a daunting task when trying to determine the most effective ways to reduce patient risk of HAI while conserving resources (such as staff time) and remaining fiscally responsible.

Several new products, known as enhanced environmental disinfection systems, have recently been developed that increase the level of room disinfection. They are intended to be used after terminal cleaning (the cleaning that is done after patient discharge/transfer; for definitions of infection control terms, see the box below). And while the primary use of these systems is in patient rooms, they can also be used in other spaces, such as operating suites.

Should you incorporate these technologies into youroperations? There is no simple answer to this question. The role of enhanced environmental disinfection in reducing patient HAI rates is unclear,...

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