Germ-fighting system supports battle to eliminate infections

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OSS Health, an orthopaedic ambulatory surgery center serving south central Pennsylvania, historically has had very low infection rates, but wanted to get them even lower for better patient protection and bragging rights.

“Our infection level gets tracked, just like anyone else’s,” says Suzette Song, MD, an orthopedic surgeon. So in November, OSS Health bought two germ-killing robots from Xenex Healthcare Services to use in its pain center, operating rooms, 26-bed orthopedic hospital for patients needing to stay overnight and urgent care/ambulatory surgery center.

The robots go to work, used after traditional cleaning is complete—they use ultraviolet light that is many times more powerful than the sun to kill any remaining organisms. A robot is set up on one side of a bed, then the other side, and then in the restroom—it runs for 10 minutes in each of the three positions for a total cleanup time of 30 minutes.

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A sign is placed outside the door to warn against entering, and a motion sensor shuts off the device if the door is opened. The robots also collect data on areas that are disinfected.

As the organization introduced the robots to patients and families, they got an unexpected reception. OSS Health found it a challenge to brag about taking this extra patient safety step without raising patient and family concerns about why the robots were necessary unless the hospital had an infection problem. Consequently, the vendor created a stripped down robot, called a “showbot,” that shows a video how the real robot works to lower infection levels even more.

Another early challenge, Song says, was making sure that staff members responsible for the units were paying attention to coming back to rooms at the proper times to move around a robot or remove it from a room after its duties were completed, in addition to their other duties.

The robots are a big investment, Song notes, but organizations with high infection rates will see a significant return on investment, in terms of improved patient safety and reductions in facility-acquired infections. For OSS Health, aside from bragging rights and tracking of its infection levels, she isn’t sure if the organization will recognize a clear return on their investment in the robots.

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