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Let there be light: Post Falls hospital uses germ-zapping robot.

Byline: Steve Sinovic

High-intensity light from a robot is being used to kill germs in a Northern Idaho hospital and hospital staffers say the investment offers an extra layer of protection to keep patients safe.

Northwest Specialty Hospital in Post Falls recently acquired a Xenex Germ-Zapping LightStrike robot that kills bugs like MRSA and the norovirus by using ultraviolet light.

In terms of medical technology, "It's a very exciting development for our organization," said Darron Rock, the hospital's marketing director. He said the machine is the only one of its kind now in operation in Idaho.

Leah Davis, the hospital's infection specialist, said the housekeeping/environmental services staff does a great job at keeping germs at bay, but hand cleaning only goes so far.

Since October, the Xenex (pronounced Zenex) device has been added to the cleaning routine in an effort to eliminate any infections that could be contracted by patients while at the hospital, said Davis.

Oftentimes, pathogens are starting to become resistant to some times of cleaning chemicals, said Davis.

The LightStrike Germ-Zapping Robot uses pulsating ultraviolet C light to kill any remaining germs in a room. When turned on, the robot, about 3-feet high, extends an ultraviolet bulb from the top and flashes the ultraviolet light. It kills any germ on any exposed surface by damaging the DNA of the bacteria and viruses, thereby killing or preventing them from replicating and making people sick.

"The use of UV light for disinfection is an up-and-coming technology," and healthcare clients are paying close attention as they tackle the problem, said Davis.

She pointed out the infection rate at Northwest Specialty, a physician owned hospital, has long been below the normal rate for facilities of its size. Surgeries at the facility include ear, nose and throat; bariatrics; podiatry; orthopedics; pain management; plastic and reconstructive surgery; general; and gynecology.

Healthcare-associated infections are relatively common, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 5 to 10 percent of patients get one, or about 1.7 million per year, which results in 99,000 deaths annually, the CDC reports.

According to San Antonio-based manufacturer Xenex, peer-reviewed studies have shown the machine's effectiveness in several hospital settings.

One published in May by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs recommends hospital integrate the robots into their daily operations. VA researchers found that two hospital rooms cleaned using Xenex's device had a 75 percent lower count of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) than those that were cleaned manually.

The manufacturer said it has 300 machines in use in the U.S. and Canada.

As Northwest Specialty, they've only had the robot for a couple months so it's still too early to make any conclusions, but Davis expects even more strides on on the infection prevention front at the six-month mark.

At a cost of $120,000, the hospital expects the investment to pay for itself in fairly short order. A surgical site infection can cost $25,000 to clear up, said Davis.

"We're working toward a goal of zero infection," said Davis.

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Publication:Idaho Business Review
Date:Jan 15, 2019
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