In any hospital, dangerous germs can be transmitted through touch, equipment and improper cleaning. These germs can cause hospital acquired infections (HAI) that cost more than $25,000 to treat. At Children's Hospital, however, germs are being detected and eliminated before these costly and potentially fatal infections can occur by using the Clean-Trace system by 3M.
"This state-of-the-art technology allows us to measure how effectively we're disinfecting," Michael Priestap, Director of Environmental Services, said. The hand-held device measures the presence of organic material on 17 high-touch areas in a patient room. If a score of 200 to 400 appears on the screen, the area is considered clean by hospital standards. In comparison, a surface that has not been cleaned can result in a score of more than 2,000. The tests are completed after a patient has left to assure the room is clean and disinfected for the next patient.
Darci Hodge, Director of Infection Control, said, "The risk of infections in hospitals is a huge safety issue. By making sure a room is clean after a patient has left, parents and patients moving into that room do not have to worry about what the previous patient had. Testing the surfaces with Clean-Trace proves that there is not a chance of passing on germs."
While many companies offer germ-detecting devices, the Clean-Trace system stores data from past tests that can be uploaded to computers, allowing staff to see which areas consistently need improvement.
"It can be used as an educational tool to show the consequences of improper disinfection and helps us determine areas for retraining," Priestap said.
In the past, culture plates were used to show nurses what could grow in environments with germs. These plates take about three days to grow bacteria, whereas a Clean-Trace test creates instant, clear results.
Beyond education, the immediate, accurate results give patients, families and staff the peace of mind that all equipment and rooms have been cleaned well.
"When you see it in black and white like that, it's 'yes' because we have proof to our patients and ourselves that we do a good job," Hodge said.
Additionally, the device reveals which cleaning products work the best for high-risk surfaces. Cleaning with the right methods is essential, as dangerous germs can cling to doorknobs, stethoscopes and counters for up to five months. The Environmental Services Department takes the results of the Clean-Trace tests into consideration when investigating disinfection and cleaning products.
Though each device costs more than $2,500 and each test costs $4, the investment is essential for patient safety.
"It is a huge cost savings device for both families and the hospital. For example, an HAI that occurs after surgery can cost a family more than $27,000," Hodge said. "Many insurance companies do not cover the costs of HAI or readmissions due to these infections currently in adult hospitals. The Clean-Trace system directly helps the hospital by eliminating the risk for infections from germs left in a room by the previous patient. It puts my mind at rest knowing that we don't have to worry about dangerous germs due to improper cleaning."