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Creating a Cleaner Healthcare Environment with Dispensing Systems

In the world of healthcare, maintaining patient safety and health is the top priority. From enforcing hand hygiene to sanitizing surfaces, facilities like hospitals, urgent care clinics and long-term care centers face the ongoing challenge of preventing the spread of Healthcare Associated Infections (HAIs). On any given day, HAIs impact one in 31 patients.[1] Over 687,000 HAIs were reported in 2015 in the United States, adding up to an estimated $9.8 billion in associated costs.[2] Not only do HAIs create a dangerous and significant burden for patients, but they negatively impact a healthcare facility’s bottom line.

 

Factors that can increase the risk of HAIs include common healthcare procedures, such as surgery, injections and catheters. Additionally, hospital linen can carry microscopic risks that may lead to HAIs if not properly laundered. It’s crucial for healthcare facility managers to understand the impact of HAIs, and how to best prevent them by developing and implementing a strategic laundry program.

 

 

Where HAIs Hide

Common HAIs that patients may pick up in hospitals include pneumonia, clostridium difficile (C. difficile) and methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections. Poor environmental and personal hygiene, along with understaffed and undertrained employees can further increase the spread of infection. Commonly used textiles, like bed sheets and pads, patient gowns, scrubs and privacy curtains, all carry the risk of spreading infection if not properly washed.

 

A recent study published in the Journal of Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology found that inadequate laundering processes may only reduce C. difficile spore counts by as little as 40%, which is below the microbiological standards that effectively limit textiles from containing disease-causing bacteria.[3] Even when hospital bed sheets were washed in a commercial washing machine with industrial detergent at high temperatures, traces of C. difficile could still be found.[4]

 

While patients may not physically touch curtains, healthcare providers and visitors who come in and out of rooms often do, creating potential for cross-contamination.

 

Another study found that privacy curtains can harbor resistant bacteria, and after just two weeks, the study found that 87.5% of the curtains tested positive for MRSA.[5] While patients may not physically touch curtains, healthcare providers and visitors who come in and out of rooms often do, creating potential for cross-contamination. Additionally, textiles like hospital gowns and scrubs can retain bacteria and even superbugs after being treated with the recommended amount of disinfectant.[6]

 

Laundry Considerations

There are approximately 5 billion pounds of healthcare linen laundered in the U.S. each year.[7] While some healthcare facilities are large enough to operate an on-premise laundry (OPL), others outsource to industrial laundries, preferably one that is accredited by the Healthcare Laundry Accreditation Council (HLAC).

 

OPLs at healthcare facilities should be designed to handle contaminated textiles and have designated areas for dirty and clean linen. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends washing healthcare textiles and linen at a temperature of at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit for a minimum of 25 minutes.[8] Chlorine bleach is also recommended as it assures an extra margin of safety. To successfully clean linen with the proper amount of chemical and to keep track of each laundry load, facilities should ensure their laundry program is utilizing chemical dispensers.

 

 

Dispensing Safety

Healthcare facilities can prioritize every element of their laundry program with the right chemical dispensing system. Dispensers take the guesswork out of the equation by measuring and diluting the proper amount of chemical to thoroughly clean and sanitize various types of linen.

 

Laundry dispensers offer numerous benefits. When selecting a dispenser for a facility, it is important to make sure to look for the following qualities:

 

  • Accuracy and reliability. Measuring cleaning chemical accurately is vital when it comes to washing healthcare linen. Water flow and pressure can vary from building to building and even vary during different times of the day, which can negatively impact the cleanliness of a load. Finding a system that is designed to eliminate dilution variance and regulate water flow is important. It is also critical to invest in accessories like depletion alarms and wands to measure and report when product runs out, so that it can be quickly replenished.
  • Multi-purpose. Since there is not a single chemical that can remove every pathogen and there may be different types of linen laundered that require different chemicals, it’s important to find a multipurpose dispenser that can handle numerous products and dispense different amounts at the same time. Furthermore, chemical carryover can happen when multiple products are used, so it is necessary to make sure the system is designed to flush with water between each dose.
  • Wireless reporting. Some advanced dispensing systems utilize the Internet of Things (IoT), which can provide facility managers with transparency into their laundry operations. Having access to data, like the weight, temperature and completion time of each laundry load, gives managers detailed records for proof of sanitation. Understanding chemical usage and shortage, as well as any alarms triggered throughout the process, can further help laundries operate more smoothly. It can also help facility managers take notice of any patterns and identify abnormalities before they become costly problems.
  • Simple installation and maintenance. Dispensers should be easy to install and located in an area that’s accessible for employees. For example, pre-wired dispensers allow for quick installation and can be programmed to minimize downtime. It is important to find a dispenser that uses eductors or diaphragm pumps as well, as squeeze tubs can wear out over time and require constant maintenance.

 

A Healthy Future

It’s estimated that 50% of all HAIs could be prevented.[9] Research shows that when healthcare facilities are aware of the risks and take the necessary steps to prevent them, infections can decrease by more than 70%.[10] Every healthcare facility has unique needs, but there are universal tools that can contribute to a successful laundry program.

 

By reducing rewash rates and measuring the correct amount of chemical each time, healthcare facilities can not only create a cleaner environment, but also reduce costs associated with labor, energy, chemical and water.

 

By reducing rewash rates and measuring the correct amount of chemical each time, healthcare facilities can not only create a cleaner environment, but also reduce costs associated with labor, energy, chemical and water. Furthermore, by removing potentially harmful bacteria during the wash cycle, healthcare providers can rely on consistently clean linen that reduces the risk of infection and focus on providing the necessary care and attention for all patients.

 

By John Goetz, Global Product Manager, Hydro Systems

 


[1] HAI and Antibiotic Use Prevalence Survey. (2014, March 26). Retrieved December 12, 2019, from https://www.cdc.gov/hai/eip/antibiotic-use.html.

[2] Health Care Associated Infection (HAI) Policies. (2019). Retrieved December 12, 2019, from https://www.americashealthrankings.org/explore/senior/measure/HAI/state/FL.

[3] Johnson, S. R. (2018, October 16). Hospital bed linens could be source of C. difficile outbreaks. Retrieved December 12, 2019, from https://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20181016/NEWS/181019914.

[4] Hospital Privacy Curtains and Bed Sheets: Soft Surface Contamination and Transmission. (2018, December 4). Retrieved December 12, 2019, from https://www.infectioncontroltoday.com/transmission-prevention/hospital-privacy-curtains-and-bed-sheets-soft-surface-contamination-and.

[5] Hospital Privacy Curtains and Bed Sheets: Soft Surface Contamination and Transmission. (2018, December 4). Retrieved December 12, 2019, from https://www.infectioncontroltoday.com/transmission-prevention/hospital-privacy-curtains-and-bed-sheets-soft-surface-contamination-and.

[6] Mehar, P. (2019, July 13). Hospital gowns retain superbugs even after being treated with disinfectant. Retrieved December 12, 2019, from https://www.techexplorist.com/hospital-gowns-retain-superbugs-even-being-treated-disinfectant/24814/.

[7] Laundry. (2015, November 5). Retrieved December 12, 2019, from https://www.cdc.gov/infectioncontrol/guidelines/environmental/background/laundry.html.

[8] Laundry. (2015, November 5). Retrieved December 12, 2019, from https://www.cdc.gov/infectioncontrol/guidelines/environmental/background/laundry.html.

[9] 2013 Annual Hospital-Acquired Condition Rate and Estimates of Cost Savings and Deaths Averted From 2010 to 2013. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; October 2015. AHRQ Publication No. 16-0006-EF. http://www.ahrq.gov/professionals/qualitypatient-safety/pfp/index.html

[10] Vital Signs: Central Line Associated Blood Stream Infections in the United States, 2001, 2008, and 2009. (n.d.). Retrieved December 12, 2019, from https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6008a4.htm.