Unprecedented Collaboration to Eliminate Infection and Illness Caused by Contaminated Surfaces in Healthcare Environments

Original post: Infection Control Today https://www.infectioncontroltoday.com
By: Matthew Hardwick, PhD; Debra Harris, PhD; Linda Lybert; and Amber Mitchell, DrPH, MPH, CPH

In a world full of conflict and complexity, we seek solidarity and simplicity. In an age of globalization of travel and medical tourism, we need the delivery of healthcare to make common sense for all who access it. A healthcare facility must be a safe place designed for health and healing. If its surfaces cannot be effectively cleaned, disinfected and/or sterilized, it is not a healing environment.

A design cannot just be created, initiated and executed by architects, designers, engineers, builders, without input from clinicians, specialists, scientists, manufacturers, advocates, and educators. The problem we continue to see is that manufacturers often develop new products to solve a specific problem without input from healthcare professionals that will be responsible for the care and maintenance of them. In particular, those who are in daily contact with patients and personnel have a different level of understanding and knowledge of infection prevention as it relates to surfaces. Ensuring all key stakeholders are at the table for all discussions provides invaluable insight and knowledge of protocols and process for cleaning and disinfection.

The Healthcare Surfaces Summit (HSS) is just that — a collaboration of stakeholders adamant about making healthcare environments and the delivery of healthcare free from harm.

HSS is a collaboration between infection preventionists, epidemiologists, infectious disease experts, scientists, laboratorians, engineers, occupational health and safety experts, and architects working in healthcare, manufacturing, academic, entrepreneurial, government, standards setting, and non-profit organizations. All are focused on creating measures, metrics, standards, research, outreach and education to reduce preventable infections by interrupting the transmission of surface-related pathogens in healthcare in support of community health.

Readers of Infection Control Today well know that 1 out of 25 patients will acquire an infection while being treated for something else.1 This statistic is unacceptable. We also know that this is not just an issue for patients, but that healthcare personnel also experience increased incidences of illness and infection and are continually at risk.2 Exposure to pathogenic microorganisms that can cause morbidity and mortality in patients and personnel, also carry risk to the public and impact overall global public health.3 This is not just the case in crowded, heavily occupied healthcare facilities.  In fact, it may potentially be more pertinent — especially with hearty environmental microorganisms like Clostridium difficile — in regular, everyday settings like moderately occupied acute care hospitals and outpatient clinics.4

Together, HSS is pulling together all science, research, and resources necessary to create meaningful tools and resources for the healthcare industry.  HSS is working to ensure that healthcare surfaces – including items such as countertops, toilets, sinks, patient care items, machines and appliances, textiles, upholstery and medical devices – become less of a culprit for harboring pathogens and contaminants that cause infection and illness in patient and personnel.

To best identify where we need to go, it is important to identify where we have been and what the science tells us.  As a result, the HSS has commissioned an extremely robust literature review and meta-analysis. The purpose of the literature review is to develop collaborative strategies to design, specify, maintain and use surface materials that contribute to a solution to reduce the risk of healthcare associated infections (HAI). Often, research focuses on the cleaning process, but not the material being cleaned. Similarly, studies focus on transmission via healthcare practitioner and hand washing strategies without controlling for contact with surfaces prior to patient interaction.