Executive briefing: How 2 hospitals used pulsed xenon UV disinfection to slash HAI rates

As the share of hospitals' reimbursements tied to infection control and quality increases, hospital leaders need to be smarter than ever about their investments in disinfection tools and products. Investing in pulsed xenon ultraviolet disinfection is one of those smart decisions every hospital should consider, for the sake of their wallets and, more importantly, for the benefit of their patients.

Chances are, you've seen the advertisements for Xenex's "germ-zapping" robots — they kind of look like R2-D2's New Age cousin. You may have even wondered how these pulsed xenon UV droids are different than other UV devices on the market.

The most important difference between Xenex and other UV robots is the growing body of research and outcome studies at hospitals across the nation that show Xenex's pulsed xenon UV robots can effectively reduce infection rates by destroying dangerous (and costly) pathogens like Clostridium difficile, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and vancomycin-resistant enterococci.

Roughly four years ago, a study conducted at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston revealed that using pulsed xenon UV light results in patient rooms that are 20 times more disinfected compared to when rooms are cleaned manually.

The second major difference is the return on investment hospitals reap when they use Xenex. The speed and efficiency of pulsed xenon UV robots means hospitals can disinfect their rooms more quickly and more efficiently than ever before, reducing costly infections and avoiding reimbursement penalties.

Still, not every hospital has made the investment in a pulsed xenon UV disinfection system, and despite these findings, many hospital leaders still wonder whether a disinfected room truly means lower rates of hospital-acquired infections.

"If there was one thing I could communicate to hospitals that are still wondering about the connection between cleaner rooms and lower infection rates, I would say we now have seven peer-reviewed, published outcome studies — plus several more studies in the wings — of hospitals saying that they used pulsed xenon to disinfect their rooms and experienced a decrease in infection rates between 53 to 100 percent," says Xenex CEO Morris Miller.

The dollars and cents investment in pulsed xenon UV light

The first thing to know about Xenex devices is that, unlike any other UV robot on the market, it uses pulsed xenon UV light to disinfect rooms.

Narrow-spectrum UV light can be produced using mercury bulbs, and there are a lot of mercury bulb devices on the market, according to Mr. Miller. However, only Xenex's pulsed xenon UV light is full spectrum and supported by numerous outcomes studies that show, unequivocally, the disinfection method works.

Though it may be tempting to opt for inexpensive mercury bulb UV devices, doing so could cost hospitals a lot in the long run.

"When you look at the return on investment from a hospital's point of view, using Xenex is expected to pay for itself within three to 12 months as a result of lower infection rates, and that's on a 36-month investment," says Mr. Miller. "That would be like me offering to lease you a car for 36 months, and if you drive it appropriately and make payments for the first year, you can continue to use for the car for an additional two years, without making another payment. We feel so strongly about this that we offer hospitals an infection rate guarantee that allows them to receive a full refund if they follow our protocols and don't receive an agreed-upon infection rate reduction."

One of the other advantages of pulsed xenon UV devices — and one of its many cost-saving features — is that the devices are fast. In a recent CDC-funded study of a leading mercury device, the median C. diff spore treatment time was 52 minutes per room. The C. diff spore treatment time for Xenex robots is five minutes per position, with three positions used for patient rooms with a bathroom and two positions for a room without a bathroom.

That said, infection control is not just about the bottom line; the most important driver behind any infection control decision is the safety of the patients. In this capacity too, Xenex has proven itself effective time and time again.

Hospitals that have reaped the rewards from pulsed xenon robots

"I don't want to play favorites, but there is one product — Xenex — that is clearly proving itself on the market over and over and over again," says Mr. Miller. "I don't know how you would do the inverse math because there are more than 50 companies that make UV products and only one published peer-reviewed infection rate reduction study between all of them to support the efficacy of mercury bulb devices. And then there is one UV device that uses pulsed xenon that has seven peer-reviewed published studies proving its effectiveness on decreasing HAI rates."

South Seminole Hospital in Longwood, Fla., is just one facility that has seen the infection-reducing power of Xenex devices first-hand. South Seminole, which is part of Orlando (Fla.) Health, began using Xenex-manufactured pulsed xenon UV robots in 2012.

During the first year South Seminole began using the UV robots, from 2012 to 2013, the hospital saw a 47 percent reduction in hospital-acquired C. diff. During that same time period, the community-acquired rate of C. diff actually increased by 7 percent.

"The concern with numbers like these is always wondering if it's a fluke and if the improvement is sustainable, but we're actually seeing ongoing improvement since 2013," Thomas Kelley, MD, chief of quality and clinical transformation at Orlando Health, told Becker's in October. "For instance, from 2012 to 2014, we actually decreased the C. diff rate in the facility by 57 percent."

South Seminole Hospital saw the same pattern emerge for other stubborn HAIs — MRSA decreased by 30 percent and VRE rates decreased by 50 percent since adding the pulsed xenon robots.

South Seminole served as the pilot hospital for Orlando Health's trial with UV disinfection, but in January of this year, the system implemented the pulsed xenon UV robot system in its other hospitals as well. Thus far, the system has seen positive results at the other facilities, including the system's flagship Orlando Regional Medical Center, which had not seen major improvements in its infection rates in the three years prior to adding the system.

Over the first five months after implementing the UV robots, ORMC saw a 25 percent reduction in C. diff and VRE and a 35 percent reduction in MRSA infections.

In addition to improving patient care by reducing these infections, Orlando Health projected the disinfection robots would save the entire health system $23 million over a five-year span, based on the results at South Seminole Hospital, according to Dr. Kelley.

The findings at South Seminole and ORMC are not isolated incidents. In November, Trinity Medical Center in Birmingham, Ala., published a study in the American Journal of Infection Control showing surgical site infections for patients undergoing total knee and total hip replacements dropped to zero after the hospital implemented quality improvement initiatives and pulsed xenon UV light disinfection.

Before implementing the two-pronged infection control bundle, the hospital had four SSIs reported from 200 total hip procedures, and three SSIs from 191 total knee procedures. After the bundle was fully implemented, no SSIs were reported from 191 total hip procedures or from 394 total knee procedures. Additionally, the hospital reported a savings of $290,990 over 12 months.

The infection control outcomes and cost savings seen at these hospitals may seem too good to be true, but they are reproduced to some degree at every institution that implements pulsed xenon UV light disinfection.

"Xenex pays for itself within a few months. It's good for the patient. It's good for the hospital's bottom line. It's good for the public in general. And sure, it's good for Xenex, but we feel very strongly that there is no question that using pulsed xenon is truly the right thing to do," says Mr. Miller.

This content is sponsored by Xenex.

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