The Importance of Environmental Hygiene in our Healthcare

There was a special report sent out in a recent issue of Infection Control Today (ICT). The report was on the topic of Environmental Cleaning and Monitoring For Infection Prevention. Which is a great topic to be addressing as it pertains directly to MediClean and you, our local health care facilities.

Over the past few years there has been a growing recognition that Healthcare-Associated Infections (HAIs) are indeed occurring through the transmissions of patient environments. According to the ICT article, Over the past four years, eight studies have confirmed that only 40% of near patient surfaces are being properly cleaned and disinfected in accordance with existing policies. This is not news for us. When we provide our GTS (Glow Test System) reports to our clients we show what the industry stats are comparative to what our effective rates were for the quarter the monitoring was in place. Although, the transmission most commonly occurs between the hands of a Healthcare Personnel (HCP), contaminated surfaces and medical equipment can play a great role in the transmission pathways. The bigger picture is how can we do a better job of preventing the transfer of these pathogens. The appropriate hand hygiene for one, and second, a better job of cleaning and disinfecting environmental surfaces.

Many of the studies showed that both HCP and EVS staff were both to blame for the poor cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces and equipment. Researchers also noted that cleaning and disinfection does not always remove the pathogens from the surfaces, due to the cleaning products and methods used, and that there is a disconnect between the HCP and EVS staff as to who cleans what and how to properly and effectively clean a surface or piece of equipment. The article gives further details into the studies that were done, but in the end provides two key elements in improving environmental cleanliness:

1. Effectively remove contaminates on surfaces and objects
2. Implement monitoring program that provides actionable results

Using the proper hospital grade disinfectant as well as following the proper instructions on application and on the kill time is critical. Most healthcare settings use a hospital grade disinfectant, but one that has a 10 minute kill time. Most surfaces dry before the 10 minutes are up. Therefore, the effectiveness of the disinfectant is lost and reapplication is necessary in order to follow the proper protocols. Using the proper equipment is another method for effectively removing the contaminates on surfaces and objects. Microfiber is key! it actually grabs the dirt and removes it from the surface. Although many healthcare facilities claim they are using microfiber, but it too has degrees of quality and a life span. Old, over washed microfiber isn’t going to “grab” the dirt but simply move it around, like traditional cotton fibers will do. The cleaning chemicals and equipment have a lot to do with the cleaning power and in turn the reduction in the amount of bio-burden left behind.

An effective monitoring program, beyond visual inspection is my opinion, is second on the list of key elements. Most hospitals are just starting to dive into the world of monitoring and the types of methods and systems in place to do so. The rest of the healthcare industry is further behind. A monitoring system isn’t meant to past judgement or point fingers as to who did or didn’t do something. But to better gauge the effectiveness of the cleaning and where improvements and added training are needed. We are all human and we make mistakes, but knowing exactly where our mistakes are and where our attention needs to be focused on is the important element in improving cleaning and disinfection efforts.

After reading this article, it is apparent to me that our healthcare industry is finally on its way to improving the efforts in environmental hygiene. By taking note that the transmission of these super bugs, among other viral and bacterial pathogens is coming from the hands and the surfaces surrounding us. Currently there is no concrete method or practice to determine if a surface is 100% infection free. But, in following the above mentioned key components, we will be doing a much better job at preventing the spread of infections in our healthcare settings as well as our communities.

The article “Environmental Cleaning and Monitoring For Infection Prevention” is still available for a limited time on the Infection Control Today’s website. I strongly urge you and your staff to read this article. Infection Control Today also has a great three part seminar on Environmental Hygiene that will give you CE credits.