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    UV Robot Disinfection In Hospitals

    The robot can carefully navigate around the room while using germicidal UV-C rays to disinfect equipment.
    Recent UK figures suggest that around 6.4% of patients in the hospital will end up with a hospital-acquired infection (HAI). Not only is this enormously distressing for patients, but estimates also suggest that the cost to the NHS of treating HAIs stands at around one billion GBP each year.

    For all sorts of reasons, ensuring that contamination is kept to an absolute minimum is crucial. Here we take a look at a modern disinfection technique which can have several advantages over existing solutions. If you’re considering upgrading your disinfection methods, take a look at the research which shows how effective UVC disinfection can be, as well as some of its other benefits.

    DECREASING THE CONCENTRATION OF CLOSTRIDIUM DIFFICILE

    C.difficile is the most commonly passed HAI. A bacteria which causes diarrhea in infected people, in vulnerable groups (such as older people, those with depleted immune systems, post-surgery patients and those with significant illnesses or injuries) it can cause serious complications and may even be fatal. A range of disinfection methods are currently utilized to keep levels of C.difficile as low as possible. A 2017 study in the Lancet shows that enhanced terminal room disinfection (using UVC disinfection on top of existing methods), results in a “significant decrease” in C.difficile infection rates.

    CLEANING THE PLACES WHICH MANUAL DISINFECTION MAY NOT REACH

    Although cleaning a flat surface is relatively straight-forward using traditional disinfection methods, the picture becomes more complicated when oddly shaped or smaller areas are considered. Fixings and fixtures such as the side of pipes nearest the wall, door handles, leads, plug sockets and similar can all be overlooked using classic disinfection methods.

    Small areas that are touched frequently (such as light switches or door handles) can present a particular challenge when it comes to infection control. A 2017 study from the American Journal of Infection Control suggests that UVC cleaning could be the answer to this. The study indicated that there is potential for UVC disinfection to be used on high-traffic, smaller surfaces with irregular contours that may not respond particularly well to standard cleaning, or which may be accidentally missed.

    MAKING A SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCE TO TERMINAL ROOM CLEANING

    Once a patient is discharged or leaves the operating theatre, ensuring that a thorough clean is completed before admission of the next patient is an important part of any infection control strategy. The “terminal clean” needs to be as rigorous as possible. UVC cleaning has been shown to be particularly useful in this respect, resulting in a higher level of cleanliness than when traditional disinfection agents alone were used.

    A 2010 study in the Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology journal showed not only that UVC cleaning made a significant impact on terminal room cleanliness: once the UVC radiation had been applied for fifteen minutes, the levels of bacteria in the surface samples taken had reduced by more than 99.9%. In addition, the study examined concentrations of C.difficile before and after UVC cleaning. The results were impressive: after 50 minutes of UVC exposure, there was a 99.8% decrease in the number of C.difficile bacteria in the environment.

    CLEANER SURROUNDINGS RESULT IN REDUCED INFECTION RATES

    Obviously, it’s important that cleaner surroundings make a difference in infection rates. Whilst it may seem obvious that cleaner surroundings result in lower infection rates, this isn’t always the case. Pathogens may be transmitted in different ways: for example, even significant cleaning of surfaces may make only a minimal difference in the transmission of airborne pathogens.

    A 2018 study in the respect Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology journal showed that the use of autonomous UVC disinfection robots decreased not only the amount of C.difficile and other pathogens in the environment but also the number of patients who were infected with the bacteria.

    COBOT CLEANING CAN BE ALTERED TO SUIT CHANGING CONDITIONS

    One of the advantages of using robotic UVC cleaning is that the machines use advanced monitoring and detection equipment to modify the intensity of the light emitted to suit individual conditions. There are numerous variables which can affect the degree of disinfection required: a UVC ‘bot considers these, delivering a tailored dose of UVC which provides the appropriate level of cleaning needed for a particular environment.

    UVC CLEANING ROBOTS CAN PENETRATE BEHIND OBJECTS

    No room is completely free of objects behind which bacteria may linger. Even an empty room may harbour bacteria on fixtures and fittings. Regular decontamination can frequently miss bacteria which is “tucked away”. UVC cleaning misses very little! The radiation can penetrate behind objects, eradicating bacteria that may otherwise be missed.

    The 2010 study mentioned earlier also states that the UVC device they used was, “… effective in eliminating vegetative bacteria on contaminated surfaces both in the line of sight and behind objects within approximately 15 minutes and in eliminating C. difficile spores within 50 minutes…” (http://tru-d.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Room-Decontamination-with-UV-Radiation.pdf). The ability of UVC robotic cleaning to make an impact on bacteria levels behind objects is an important benefit that cannot be under-estimated.

    COBOTS BRING SIGNIFICANT BENEFITS

    Compared with traditional cleaning techniques, cobots offer several benefits:

    • Less labour intensive to use: once in position, a UVC robot will perform the job without the need for further control.
    • Less need to resource on-going supplies of disinfectant and to replace cleaning equipment.
    • More comprehensive access: a UVC robot can go into spaces and clean areas that are difficult to access manually or through other cleaning methods, cleaning behind objects if necessary.
    • Safer to use: because the ‘bot doesn’t use chemicals, sprays or other cleaning products, there’s no chance of hazardous substances accidentally falling into the wrong hands – an important consideration in hospitals where vulnerable people are accommodated.


    Although the initial cost of a UVC robot for disinfection is relatively high, there are substantial cost savings to be made over time, both in terms of on-going use and in the amount saved due to reduced infection rates. Most importantly of all, lower infection rates mean better outcomes for patients, a goal which is at the heart of healthcare.

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