Five new products and innovations to reduce the danger of infections

May 19, 2017
By Thom Wellington

You may be wondering why this publication has allowed a column specifically focused on health care-associated infections (HAIs) while so many changes are occurring in health care.

Unfortunately, there are a few powerful forces that have collided over one specific spot that makes this focus on HAIs significant. With the continued rise in multi-drug resistant organisms (MDROs), an aging population, CMS payment penalties for HAIs and a sincere focus on quality outcomes by everyone — this is the market to watch. According to market research, the global infection control market is estimated to grow at an annual compounded rate of 6.5 percent from 2016 to 2021 to reach $17.78 billion by 2021.

Consequently, new products are quickly entering the infection prevention space. Large companies such as 3M and Johnson & Johnson, among others, have researchers aiming to satisfy. Many new startups are also trying to compete for solutions in this space. I have picked five products that are focused on safety improvement, but might not otherwise be so visible. The products selected are to demonstrate the diverse growth in the infection control market and to get you thinking from different angles on possible safety solutions.

Endoscopy storage cabinets
With all the recent infections related to endoscopes, the focus has been on cleaning these important instruments. However, storing these instruments is just as important. It makes sense to store scopes in a proper and safe setting, but far too often I observe endoscopes hung on fiber pegboards or in storage closet areas that are not appropriate. Allowing the scopes to properly dry and remain safe means placing them in a clean, controlled environment, allowing them to hang straight as well as not touch another scope. Metal is preferred for the cabinet since metal is non-absorbent and not a nutrient for fungi. Cabinets with the proper design can play an important role in preventing an infection.

Innovation in paint
One of the last things infection preventionists think about is the paint on the walls in patient areas. And Sherwin-Williams made sure to be ahead of its competitors. This 150-year-old paint manufacturer has been innovating since its inception with quality products that reduce VOCs and its newest product, Paint Shield, is no exception. Paint Shield has been engineered to kill several forms of bacteria in the hospital or long-term care setting. The paint coating markets itself as “capable of killing Enterococcus (VRE), Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), and E. coli.”

Small device UV disinfection
Unfortunately, many of the devices that doctors, nurses and others use throughout the day are overlooked when cleaning and disinfecting are needed. Consider how many times you touch your cell phone, stethoscope or other tools such as oximeters or blood pressure cuffs. Hand-washing will help, but due to the frequency these devices are used, they become prime suspects in carrying harmful bacteria. Even MDROs can be eliminated from surfaces using the correct C-spectrum ultraviolet (UV) light. Placing your phone, pen or stethoscope in a UV flash cabinet for just a few minutes can be enough ultraviolet light to kill superbugs such as C. difficile, S. aureus and more.

Waterproof copper keyboard
Most have heard about the increased usage of copper in health care-related devices such as IV poles and bedrails. Copper manufacturers claim that the metal is inherently antimicrobial and the EPA has even approved CuVerro copper for usage. Certain copper products are said to kill bacteria and viruses that settle on its surface. One product that doesn’t get much attention is a copper-surfaced keyboard made with copper keys. This keyboard is not just washable. It is fully immersible. With keyboards being high-touch devices in ORs and ICU areas, this is a solution that could benefit everyone.

Scrubs made to stop germs
The infection prevention market is expanding so quickly that even hospitals are working on solutions. Some of the large systems have even gone so far as to develop venture capital departments to capture some of the revenue that new products may create. Baptist Health System in Florida teamed with Vestigen to create a new material for scrubs that is highly durable and repels liquid. The purpose of the advanced scrub material is to prevent the spread of dangerous bacteria by making a fabric that is completely wipeable.

Hospitals must focus on reducing infections since infections are mostly preventable and represent not only a large safety issue to patients and staff, but a significant cost to the facility. With an aging population and increase in MDROs, even the CDC is recognizing the need for new technology in reducing HAIs by granting more than $10 million in research funds focused on innovation.

About the author: Thom Wellington is the CEO and a stockholder in Infection Control University.