A Kentucky Hospital Is Using Robots to Eradicate Infection

Employees at Norton Audubon Hospital in Louisville share the novel — and super high-tech — way they’re reducing the risk of hospital-acquired infections. 

A Kentucky Hospital Is Using Robots to Eradicate Infection
Photo: Courtesy of Norton Healthcare, Lynne Choate

At Norton Audubon Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky, a platoon of robots is regularly deployed in the facility’s operating rooms, as well as its critical care, step-down and oncology/medical surgical units. The machines bathe the rooms with germicidal UV-C rays hundreds of times more powerful than sunlight, penetrating the cell walls of viruses, mold, bacteria, fungus and spores — effectively disinfecting a single room’s surfaces in four minutes flat.

High-tech helper

This pulsed xenon technology, released via the LightStrike Germ-Zapping Robot, has helped reduce hospital-acquired infections by anywhere from 50 to 100 percent in facilities where it is used, according to its maker, the medical tech company Xenex. Those infections include Ebola, anthrax and Clostridium difficile (C. diff), as well the cold, flu and norovirus.

At Norton Audubon, Jon Cooper, the hospital’s chief administrative officer, says the team reviewed several similar devices, including those that emit mercury UV, another germ-blasting approach used in hospital settings.

“Cycle times and technology were both taken into consideration,” says Cooper, adding that the tech is used among a bundle of other responsible hygienic practices, like handwashing, at the hospital. “With Xenex, the cycle times are shorter, cleaning the room fast and with safer technology.”

Happy patients

“Patient safety is our top concern… we don’t want patients being harmed through a hospital-acquired infection while entrusting us to provide them care.”

Compared with mercury UV devices, which work at a single spectrum, Xenex’s UV-C robots, which emit pulsed xenon, are full spectrum, making their light faster and more effective at exterminating germs, including those in shadowed areas.

“Patient safety is our top concern,” Cooper says. “We don’t want patients being harmed through a hospital-acquired infection while entrusting us to provide them care.”

While peer-reviewed research suggests the more the robots are used in a hospital, the less harmful bacteria exists to harm patients, Norton Audubon has observed firsthand the effects the technology can have on its patients’ well-being.

Super stats

In addition to a reduction in cases of hospital-acquired MRSA, since August 2016, the hospital has seen a 40 percent reduction of C. diff — a spore that can live on surfaces for up to five months — in its targeted units, says Kristin Pickerell, DNP, RN, NE-BC, CPHQ and director of quality & clinical effectiveness at Norton Audubon. The hospital has 432 beds and serves nearly 150,000 patients annually.

“As we continue to see a decrease in infection rates on our targeted units, the next step is to see operationally what other areas could be included in the daily or weekly rotation,” Cooper says.

Popularity of the technology similarly appears to be growing in the United States and around the world.

According to Xenex, over 400 healthcare facilities, including MD Anderson; the University of California, Los Angeles; Stanford University; and the Mayo Clinic, use the company’s robots.

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