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Innovation for Environmental Services

environmental services

Innovation is everywhere in Healthcare and if you work in the Environmental Services field, knowing what is new and available will help you stay up to date with the latest trends in service. From chemical usage to minimize labor productivity, to advances in ultraviolet technology. Innovation in Environmental Services is imperative as we continue to evolve and protect visitors, patients and staff to provide a clean environment for healing.

Chlorine Based Chemical

New chemicals are introduced on the market all the time and it is your responsibility as a Director to understand what they do. There is a wide variety of chemicals that are on the market that can target all types of infections. Today the focus is on COVID-19.

A critical focus for Environmental Services is reducing Clostridium difficile (kilos-TRID-e-um dif-uh-SEEL) or C.Diff. C.Diff. is a hospital acquired infection and because C.Diff. is a spore, we require a chemical that neutralizes the threat from the surfaces.

The most recognizable name is Clorox. There are many different chemicals that can be used but you must be cautious with the surfaces that you want to use them on. Because of the bleach, sometimes you will leave a residue on the surface that you should go back over with water to wash off. The issue then becomes a potential increase in labor, because of the extra step that is caused from the bleach.

Vinegar Based Chemicals

Another line of chemicals also considered a sporicidal cleaner are vinegar-based cleaners. The use of vinegar in the rooms eliminate the need for a second wipe down of equipment so it does not add additional room clean time. The issue that with this type of cleaner is the smell of vinegar. The smell reminds people of dying Easter eggs, and not everyone is a fan. In fact, many nurses in the facilities that implemented this cleaner have experienced “breathing issues” in the same areas where cleaning is completed. When implementing this program, there must be comprehensive communication with the facility and involvement with the Infection Prevention team.

Mattress Protector

A recent new practice is the use of reusable mattress covers for patient beds. During a discharge clean, a new mattress cover is placed over the mattress then the bed is made up with linens. At discharge, the mattress cover is rolled up separately from the dirty linen and sent out for laundering. The theory behind this practice is that the infectious material will be on the mattress cover resulting in a smaller probability of spreading an infection to the next patient. Research is still being conducted on the efficacy of this practice. While there is less wear and tear on the mattress directly, there is additional cost in the cover. The covers can be either purchased as a capital purchase or they can be leased.


Ultraviolet Technology

The Environmental Service managers must work closely with the infection prevention nurses when adding an Ultraviolet (UV) program. Not all UV disinfection technologies are the same, the differences range from the type of UV light, to a bleach mist that is released into the room.

The UV light does not replace the need for manual cleaning and disinfecting the surfaces, but it does add an extra layer of disinfecting.  Many companies have a UV unit that they have on the market. The differences that we see are the number of bulbs in each machine, and how long each cycle takes to run in the rooms. The largest variation with the units ranges from a 4-minute cycle to a 15-minute cycle. With the longer cycles the machines must be moved to other locations in the rooms to make sure that all surfaces get touched by the intensity of the light. The clinical teams must be educated and involved with the selection because it adds time to compete the discharge room turnover. There is a wide range of pricing on units.


Hydrogen Peroxide Mist

The newest in the line of defense is the Hydrogen Peroxide mister. Misting does not replace the need for normal cleaning, it is used after the cleaning is done. Time allotment for the cycles are also varying in time and like the UV treatment, add time to the discharge room turnover. The mist is released into the room and a very fine mist covers all surfaces and equipment in the room. When the mist is first used, the rooms are considered “off limits” to employees for a period of time. It can take up to an additional 75 minutes for the mist to disperse and be safe for employees to enter the room. This is in addition to the normal cleaning time meaning that the effect on patient throughput is fairly significant. There is a wide range on pricing for these machines so due diligence is necessary.


The Bottom Line

There are many innovations and new practices that the Environmental Services department can implement to improve infection prevention practices. During COVID-19 when infection prevention awareness is at an all-time high Environmental Services managers should identify opportunities to support an organization in improving outcomes. When you need support in navigating new practices, products, and innovations let our healthcare consultants help you determine which option is best for your facility.


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