Infection prevention through proper hospital cleaning
Healthcare Mobile app

A clean step forward

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

The last thing you need to think about while in a hospital is contracting an infection while you're there. However, picking up an HCAI during a hospital stay is an unfortunate reality for too many patients.

European hospitals are counting close to nine million healthcare-associated infections (HCAI) affecting patients every year. In other words, one out of 15 patients risk getting an HCAI due to healthcare deficiencies. As a result, roughly 90,000 people in the EU die each year as a result.

Next to this alarming and unfortunate number of patient outcomes, HCAIs also consume a part of the limited number of resources that the hospital has at its disposal, such as the number of beds available for new admissions. Costs associated to additional HCAI treatments have a negative impact on a hospital’s overall standard of care that it can offer to its patients.

Times are changing

In a world where innovations and solutions are popping up in virtually every field of society, one may wonder how HCAIs continue to exist. Compared to other fields, new insights regarding Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) are generally not a recurring theme. Using alcohol-based hand rub (ABHR) instead of the ordinary water and soap formula was probably the latest ‘breakthrough’. This global shift made its entrance into hospital conventions about 25 years ago – a rather small change in practice – but continues to save millions of lives.

Nevertheless, the IPC landscape in hospital and patient care has consistently been underrated and, most importantly, understudied. Keeping hospitals clean doesn't just serve aesthetic purposes, it goes far beyond that. For this reason, we need to change our view on hospital environments and its threats when not cleaned adequately. If the risks of transmission are known, not a single person would step foot in a contaminated room.

Professor Didier Pittet, Director of the Infection Control Programme and World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre on Patient Safety, said: "Disease and infection do not recognise borders, so neither should our knowledge and understanding of how to prevent them."

Hand washing

With the drastic change in hand washing procedures, researchers are looking at the role of hands in the spread of infections in hospital settings. It is estimated that over 50-70% of all HCAI are transmitted through contaminated hands; the remaining 30-50% could be linked to environmental transmission. After all, ‘hands are really just another highly mobile surface in healthcare that are commonly contaminated and rarely disinfected’.

Ideally, a hospital should adhere to the WHO model of ‘Clean Care is Safer Care’ to ensure its environmental hygiene. This model is the standard for good practices in more than 180 countries today. The number of affected patients clearly shows that there is a need for creating evidence-based guidelines for hospital cleaning. Moreover, the guidelines should result in the right tools for education and implementation of thorough hospital cleaning.

Facility cleaning

Cleaning has always been an important part of maintaining productive healthcare facilities and patient safety. However, the growing threat of anti-microbial resistance (AMR) is prompting a shift in approach to healthcare cleaning. Hospital environmental hygiene is complex because it is dependent on the pathogen present and the product used to remove it.

There are five main variables to cleaning, whether removing soil or disinfecting and cleaning on a microbiological level. These elements are:

  1. The product or intervention that is applied
  2. The technique and equipment used to apply the product
  3. The type of surface
  4. The level of environmental contamination
  5.  The environmental hygiene personnel doing the cleaning.

If any one of these elements are lacking, the cleaning will, by definition, be suboptimal. The best cleaning substance in the world is useless if not applied correctly, and the best-trained personnel are useless if the product they are using is not effective against the pathogen that needs to be eliminated.

More than health

With funding for healthcare becoming ever-more stretched, organisations are paying far closer attention to the patient journey – especially when it comes to how HCAIs can affect outcomes and costs.

This tendency has caused healthcare cleaning to be perceived as less important and more of an integral element of reducing bed shortages. Therefore, cleaning providers will have to go that extra mile to demonstrate how their products and services produce results. Organisations in possession of data-friendly, tech-savvy processes will have a clear advantage over their competitors in the near future.

The Healthcare Cleaning Forum

Effective cleaning practices and proper disinfecting products are directly linked to reduced rates of HCAIs. The Healthcare Cleaning Forum at Interclean Amsterdam provides a platform for prevention of HCAIs and the threat of antibiotic resistance. It facilitates knowledge sharing and networking amongst key players in the industry: decision-makers, key opinion leaders and other parties in this field. A reduction in HCAIs will enhance patient safety and shorten the duration of a hospital stay. As a result, the healthcare sector could save millions a year.

In addition to the plenary session at the Forum, practical environmental hygiene demonstrations and Meet the Expert sessions will take place at the Healthcare Cleaning Demo at Interclean Amsterdam.

Didier Pittet, Alexandra Peters, Jon Otter, and Andreas Voss, will all share their views on Infection Prevention in relation to clean environments. Better consideration for hospital environmental hygiene will lower rates of HCAIs, reduce antimicrobial resistance, and protect hospital staff.

The programme will address implementation issues, and questions like ‘how can you calculate clean’ and ‘how to measure quality’. Part of the afternoon will include more practical sessions related to cleaning in hospitals like instrument sterilisation, waste management and water and air quality.

The Clean Hospitals Platform aims to be the step forward in aligning the research efforts of the different manufacturers, sharing research information, and to develop necessary ‘evidence-based cleaning’ methods and solutions as an industry, together with the hospitals.

Established in 1967 and organized by RAI Amsterdam, the world- leading Interclean Amsterdam 2020 is the world’s largest professional cleaning and hygiene show, set to feature more than 950 exhibitors and attract around 35,000 visitors from 12-15 May 2020.


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