Healthcare News & Insights

Effective cleaning strategies for hospitals

Is your hospital doing everything it can to prevent the spread of infections with its cleaning methods? New research sheds some light on the effectiveness of common cleaning techniques – and how hospitals can improve their protocols. 

According to an analysis published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, not every cleaning method is created equal. In the analysis, researchers looked at several studies published over the past two decades to see just how well certain techniques stood up in research.

While cleanliness is essential to reducing the spread of hospital-acquired infections, many studies don’t attempt to make any kind of correlation between infection rates and the use of a particular cleaning agent or strategy, per a news release about the analysis.

Instead, most research will just look at how well a cleaning method removes germs from a surface – which doesn’t give the full picture.

More limitations

Also, few studies evaluated how cleaners perform with “imperfect use.” Most studies aren’t simulating real-life cleaning practices used every day in hospitals. So there’s no evaluation of whether hospital staff are using cleaning products for the recommended amount of time based on manufacturers’ instructions.

Additionally, there’s also not much research that proves whether these recommendations are even practical in a real-life setting, since most are created based on experiments in a controlled lab.

Hospitals need to consider these limitations when selecting products and creating protocols for cleaning.

Cleaning methods that work

When looking for a more effective cleaning method, it’s crucial to take a patient-centered approach. More hospitals should use strategies that are proven to boost patient outcomes – and if possible, these techniques should be regularly tested and monitored to find out which one is the best at stopping the spread of germs and infections.

One cleaning method hospitals should consider is using bleach-based cleaners over chlorine-dioxide-based products. Reason: It’s backed up by many studies. In most of the studies, the rates of C. diff in patients declined when hard surfaces were cleaned with bleach-based disinfectants, but chlorine-dioxide disinfectants didn’t make a dent in reducing either C. diff contamination or infection rates.

Other disinfection techniques that have proven effective in several studies, per the analysis, include:

  • cleaning with wipes moistened with hydrogen peroxide and other chemicals, which lead to a decrease in healthcare-acquired infections
  • using “no-touch” cleaning techniques with devices that emit hydrogen peroxide vapor or ultraviolet light, which reduced infection rates, and
  • switching from standard surfaces to those made of solid copper-based metals or alloys, which have been shown to kill bacteria on their own.

Making selections

Keep in mind that while most studies show the effectiveness of a particular cleaning method in reducing the presence of certain bacteria, few compare cleaning methods to each other. So for now, hospitals have to make their own comparisons and decide which method gives the most bang for its buck.

But it’s a good idea to review each product’s effectiveness at both killing germs and keeping infections at bay before making a final choice.

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