Germ-Zapping Robots Enhance Hospital Safety
Meet Xena the germ-zapping warrior. She’s one of two new robots at Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center that are super cleaners, able to disinfect and eliminate hard-to-kill superbugs — such as those that can cause hospital-acquired infections — within minutes by sending out intense pulses of ultraviolet (UV) light. The robots are used to disinfect critical areas at Avera McKennan. The goal is to have cleaner surfaces and areas, and prevent hospital-acquired infections, which are associated with complications and in some cases, death.
“This is all about improving patient safety. In other hospitals, pulsed xenon UV robots have reduced hospital-acquired infections significantly — in some studies by up to 100 percent. That’s a game changer for both patients and staff,” said Mary Leedom, Assistant Vice President of Surgical Services at Avera McKennan. “Although our infection rates are very low, we all know that hospital-acquired infections can occur anywhere. We wanted to ensure that we are using the most cutting-edge technology to create an even safer environment for patients.”
The two robots are used to disinfect operating rooms, the Ambulatory Surgery Center, the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and the Oncology Transplant Unit at Avera McKennan.
The UV disinfection system adds another layer of protection to the hospital’s standard disinfection process. Research shows that manual cleaning alone may remove less than half of pathogens. Xenex robots have been shown in multiple peer reviewed published studies to significantly reduce the amount of pathogens in hospital rooms.
After a standard room cleaning, the robot is brought into the empty room. It pulses intense UV-C light that kills bacteria, funguses and viruses within minutes. The light disinfects hard-to-reach places that humans might miss.
Hospitals across the country have been adding pulsed xenon UV light disinfection systems to their programs as more clinical evidence has shown the benefits of broad spectrum UV light.
Clinical research shows the pulsed xenon UV room disinfection system destroys even the most dangerous pathogens. For example, studies demonstrate a 100 percent decrease in surgical site infection rates; a 53 percent reduction in infection rates for Clostridium difficile (C. diff), which can be resistant to general disinfection; and a 57 percent reduction in Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection rates, a bacteria that is fairly easy to kill but not as easy to treat.
Avera McKennan is participating in a peer-reviewed clinical research study with Xenex, the robot manufacturer. The study will look at infection rates specifically in orthopedics at Avera and compare the rates to the previous 12 months to see if rates have decreased. Avera also tracks infection rates as part of performance improvement.
“Once we see how well these perform, our goal is to acquire more units. We want to provide the same standard of care for all our patients,” said Judy Lamphron, Infection Control Program Manager at Avera McKennan.