St. Francis Hospital is using three germ-zapping robots to help keep patients healthy.
Victor Anderson, a registered nurse and the Columbus hospital's infection preventionist, is in charge of the disinfection devices produced by Xenex Disinfection Services and has dubbed them Victor 1, Victor 2 and Victor 3.
"This is doing something extra beyond the regular cleaning to ensure safety," Anderson said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one in 25 patients in the United States has at least one healthcare-associated infection contracted during the course of their hospital care.
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In its company literature, Xenex states more people in this country die from a lack of hospital infection control than from AIDS, breast cancer and auto accidents combined.
Infectious organisms can remain on inanimate objects for months and can be transferred from the environment to the hands of healthcare workers and patients.
Hospitals are exploring ways to sanitize rooms beyond a good scrubbing. St. Francis has been using the Xenex robots to provide extra infection protection for a little more than a year.
These robots use pulsed xenon ultraviolet light 25,000 times more powerful than the sun to destroy harmful bacteria, viruses, fungi and bacterial spores.
The system is effective even against the most dangerous pathogens including Clostridium difficile, norovirus, influenza, and staph bacteria such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, which is better known as MRSA.
"Our plan is to be using them in all the rooms," Anderson said.
Currently, the portable robots that stand about 4 feet tall and sell for $60,000 or more each are used primarily in the operating suite, cardiac catheter lab, intensive care, endoscopy unit and all isolation rooms.
The robot supplements other cleaning services.
"First, before we even put the robot in the room, someone from environmental services comes in and gives the room a good cleaning. The robot should catch what is missed," Anderson said.
The robot focuses on high-touch areas most likely to be a source of contamination such as bed rails and telephones, giving those an extra strong dosage of the ultraviolet light.
The ultraviolet rays penetrate the cell walls of the bacterium, damaging DNA and making it impossible to mutate or replicate, which makes them no longer infectious.
Anderson said the device only needs five to 10 minutes to get the job done in a room.
The rotating robot shoots 120 flashes of what Anderson called "intense bright light" per minute.
He said the strobe-like affect makes the room look like a disco.
Because of the danger to a person's eyes, nobody may stay in the room while the robot is working and a sensor will shut it off if any motion is detected.
It may be observed through a window.
"It is safe on the sheets. There is no residue," Anderson said.
While other hospitals may be using similar technology, Anderson said he likes the system St. Francis is using.
"I believe it is getting the job done. It is helping protect people," he said.