SSI surgical infection prevention

Making the Business Case for Infection Prevention in Hospitals

For decades, it has been known that a layered approach to disinfection is the key to making hospitals safer and reducing hospital-acquired infections (HAIs). A 2020 meta-analysis of many different studies on reducing HAIs found six predominant methods. The first two methods were hand hygiene and maintaining a safe and clean hospital environment.

Hand hygiene

Studies have shown that good hand hygiene can reduce HAIs by 45%. But to effectively implement a data-driven hand hygiene policy that sticks, hospitals need strict and routine monitoring and recording of compliance to prioritize areas for development and improvement. And establishing protocols is not enough. One challenge with any disinfection system—it depends on a very busy staff to decide from one minute to the next: Am I going to actually follow protocol as I enter and exit this room? The unfortunate reality, also highlighted by many studies, is that rushed staff often choose to skip steps. And one of the things that they often skip is handwashing.

To date, hospital managers haven’t had a good way to monitor cleaning protocol compliance. Privacy-compliant sensors can help. They can count people at specific times and locations within a room. For instance, does an occupant stand at the sink or hand sanitizer dispenser after entering a room and before leaving? Tracking these trends, and comparing them by shift, ward, and patient conditions can help understand what is working and where to focus efforts to improve hand hygiene protocol compliance.

Surgical site infections

Studies have shown that UV-C can reduce HAIs by 30% in a terminal room disinfection. What would that kind of gain mean financially if applied to the operating room?

Let’s take a look at the operating room. On average, surgical site infections occur in 2-4% of patients undergoing inpatient surgery. The average US hospital has six operating rooms and 400 procedures per room per year. If just 3% of those patients got an infection, you’d see about 72 HAIs from the OR each year.

In a 2017 study, the Federal Agency of Healthcare Research and Quality estimated that the direct cost of treating one surgical site infection was over $28,000. If a layered approach to disinfection can avoid 30% of those surgical site infections, an average hospital could avoid 22 patients with HAIs each year, and save over $600,000.

C. diff infections

Let’s move beyond the operating room into the wards. If a 500-bed hospital can reduce C. diff cases, which cost even more to treat than SSIs and occur in a bit under 1% of patients in their wards by 30%, a result demonstrated in this study with UV-C terminal room disinfection, with similar logic as above, it could save over $2 million per year.

Indirect financial benefits

There are also indirect financial benefits from reducing hospital-acquired infections. The $28,000 to treat each SSI and the $34,000 to treat C. diff doesn’t include the opportunity cost of filling up a bed that would otherwise be available for a paying patient. The average hospital bed generates over $3,600 in revenue each day; SSIs and C. diff add over 8 and 9 days, respectively, to a hospital stay. When you factor in readmission rates, a 500-bed hospital is losing out on several million dollars in revenue just from that indirect cost of not having beds available for paying patients.

Beyond the patient room

Airborne pathogen loads also impact hospital staff. Even if only 10% of staff sick time is work-related, reducing that number by 30% could represent roughly $2 million in savings, based on the average hourly wages of US healthcare workers.

The Mayo Clinic has tested Beam, R-Zero’s upper room germicidal UV-C device, and the Vive, our continuous disinfection far UV-C device, in two lobbies, a bathroom, and a cafeteria. These spaces saw a 96-99.8% reduction in B. subtilis spores, a difficult-to-inactive microorganism often used to measure disinfection effectiveness.

It all adds up

Suffice it to say that there is an incredibly strong financial return for a hospital that can maintain a safe, clean, and hygienic hospital environment, and R-Zero can provide UV-C disinfection technology to help make that happen at an affordable price. To estimate your hospital’s benefits, fill out our healthcare ROI calculator, or contact us for a more specific estimate of how we can reduce the pathogen loads in the air and on surfaces in your building.

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