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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately one in 25 hospitalized patients has at least one infection that they contracted during their hospital stay.  Some of those healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) occur due to contaminants found in patient hospital rooms.

Overall, the CDC notes approximately 1.7 million HAIs afflict between five and ten percent of all patients hospitalized in this country each year.  Almost 100,000 people die annually due to those infections. In addition to the tragedy of a lost loved one, the cost of HAIs to the American healthcare system each year is approximately $20 billion.

In an article published in the American Journal of Infection Control (AJIC) and presented at the 45th Annual Conference of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC), researchers explained that the checklists that drive patient room cleaning may need closer scrutiny.

In this research, the infection control team at a rural Pennsylvania hospital evaluated a checklist used for cleaning hospital rooms in 2017.  The checklist had 175 items to be cleaned with each room turnover.

Of rooms that had been cleaned using the checklist, 55 were randomly chosen for inspection. The infection preventionist team found Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) on surfaces within each of these rooms.  ATP is a byproduct of biological activity and swab tests are commonly used to determine environmental cleanliness in hospital and other healthcare settings.

High-Touch Means Higher Tisk Of Biological Activity

The capability of hospital staff to control infection depends on the infection prevention checklists used by the Environmental Services team to clean each hospital room.  In this study, although the wall-mounted whiteboard used for communication with the patient and staff was on the checklist, the dry markers and erasers were not.

Of the 39 markers and 52 erasers tested, no markers passed inspection and only two erasers were found to be clear of ATP.  While the 175-item cleaning checklist for this hospital is now a 177-item checklist, the importance and danger of viral or bacterial transfer on small and large items in the patient care environment cannot not be underestimated.

The lead author on the study, and director of epidemiology and infection prevention at the Pennsylvania hospital, Ericka Kalp noted, “Although they are just small writing instruments, both the markers and erasers tested at 40 times the threshold. Because these are a main communication tool for nurses, cleaning them properly is of great significance to improving infection prevention.”

Exposure to an HAI is a risk at any level of medical treatment.  For vulnerable, ill or injured patients, an HAI can have devastating or fatal consequences. In addition to in-room exposure, HAIs can occur due to poorly designed or improperly sterilized medical equipment or other practices.   If seriously injured through a hospital acquired infection, speak with an attorney experienced with medical negligence and standards of care for HAI prevention.

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