7 sins of suboptimal disinfecting and how to mitigate them

Try as hospitals might, there are several barriers that make achieving optimal disinfection of patient rooms, operating rooms and shared patient care equipment challenging.

Despite those challenges, hospitals can improve their cleaning and disinfecting compliance by implementing a disinfection program that includes a few key components, according to Peter Teska, global healthcare sector expert from Sealed Air.

Mr. Teska and Nicole Kenny, senior director of professional and technical services of Virox Technologies, shared some of the most common barriers to optimal disinfecting and how to overcome them in a recent webinar hosted by Becker's Hospital Review.

"One of the problems with disinfecting as an application is that a surface that is pathogen-free and one that is loaded with pathogens can look exactly the same," said Mr. Teska.

Highlighted below are seven disinfecting challenges hospitals face, or the "seven sins of disinfecting."

1. Germs are invisible so it can be difficult to know if pathogens have been killed just be looking at a surface.

2. Staff members and housekeeping workers sometimes have concerns about the safety of the disinfectants hospitals use and their potential to cause eye, skin and respiratory irritation or damage. Due to their reservations, they might not use disinfectants properly.

3. Some cleaning and disinfecting products are harsh on hospital surfaces and equipment and can shorten the lifespan of the hospital's assets, which cost money to replace.

4. When the time it takes for a disinfectant to dry is shorter than the product's contact kill time, pathogens aren't completely killed, increasing the risk for patients.

5. If disinfectants aren't used with compatible cleaning tools, their efficacy might decrease.

6. When clear roles and responsibilities between hospital staff and housekeeping services are not defined, assumptions might be made and some surfaces and pieces of equipment might not get cleaned at all.

7. Storing disinfectants in an area where they are not readily available or visible may decrease the likelihood disinfecting compliance will be met.

To combat suboptimal disinfecting, hospitals should be sure to do the following things, according to Ms. Kenny:

1. Define clear roles and responsibilities. Meet with environmental services and the nursing staff to establish which team cleans each surface and pieces of equipment. Have each team write down instructions to ensure they clean everything as required.

2. Pick the right products. Make sure the products employees are using are fast, effective, responsible and sustainable. Disinfectants should have a broad spectrum of kill claims that are appropriate to healthcare pathogens. They should also have fast kill times as well as be safe to use around patients, easy to use and economical.

3. Use products that are safe and pleasant. Products should be safe and not have an offensive odor that would discourage workers from using them. Hospitals should also make sure the staff understands the products being used are safe to ensure proper use.

4. Make disinfectants accessible. Cleaning products, specifically wipes, should be easily accessible to make sure they are convenient for workers to use. That may mean storing wipes in patient rooms or right outside the door.

5. Validate effectiveness. A key component to any disinfection program is following up with its efficacy. Hospitals should use blacklights or other products to ensure disinfection efficacy and should audit housekeeping services and hospital staff to ensure compliance with the product's instructions and established processes.

Mr. Teska recapped with the importance of balancing product, practice and compliance pieces, all key as components of effective disinfection.


To learn more, download the webinar presentation slides here. View the webinar by clicking here. We suggest you download the video to your computer before viewing to ensure better quality. If you have problems viewing the video, which is in Windows Media Video format, you can use a program like VLC media player, free for download here.

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