Good hygiene practices have reduced exposure to pathogens during hospital stays. Yet the number of people who die in the U.S. from hospital-acquired infections is about the same as from AIDS, breast cancer and auto accidents combined.

Next gen

“Hospitals are investing in solutions to make the environment safer for patients so the sick don’t get sicker,” says Dr. Mark Stibich, chief scientific officer for Xenex, the maker of pulse xenon light technology that destroys superbugs before they harm patients.

The most common and hardest-to-kill bacterial infection is Clostridium difficile (C. diff infections or CDI). MRSA is still an threat, along with growing cases of CRE (Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae), which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls a “nightmare bacteria” because of its resistance to most antibiotics.

“'We have a 30 percent reduction in CDI with use of the robot.'”

Taken to task

The Mayo Clinic is among those putting UV robots to work. According to Dr. Priya Sampathkumar, head of UV Disinfection at the Mayo Clinic, the hospital had a strong environmental cleaning practice in place and good infection controls, including the use of bleach. Still, there were areas in the facility with C. diff rates higher than institutional averages.

“We decided to examine whether the addition of UV disinfection to a robust environmental cleaning program would provide further CDI reduction,” says Sampathkumar. Once a patient was released and a standard cleaning was finished, the Xenex robots completed additional disinfecting steps.

“We have a 30 percent reduction in CDI with use of the robots,” claims Sampathkumar. “One of the things that surprised us pleasantly was the positive response from patients and staff. They welcomed the robots and felt that helped the hospital become safer.”

Adds Stibich, "it isn’t uncommon for hospital staff to even name their robots."