Erlanger Health System officials said Wednesday they have taken a giant leap into the future with the addition of a germ-fighting robot that uses ultraviolet light to zap harmful bacteria from equipment and areas throughout the hospital.
Resembling R2D2 from Star Wars, the Xenex robot uses pulsed xenon ultraviolet (UV-C) light that is 25,000 times more powerful than sunlight to destroy harmful bacteria, viruses, fungi, and even bacterial spores. Studies show that the Xenex room disinfection system is consistently 20 times more effective than standard chemical cleaning practices and effective against a variety of the most dangerous superbugs, including Clostridium difficile endospores (C. diff), norovirus, influenza, and staph bacteria like methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, better known as MRSA.
In just five to 10 minutes, the device can disinfect a patient room, patient bathroom or operating room (OR) by pulsing ultraviolet light, which washes over the surfaces where germs reside without leaving a chemical residue. To disinfect a room after standard cleaning procedures are complete, hospital team members wheel the Xenex robot into the room, begin the automated sequence, and then leave the room. For enhanced safety, a sign placed outside the door warns people not to enter, and a motion sensor automatically shuts off the machine if someone should enter.
Erlanger is the first hospital in Chattanooga and the second hospital in Tennessee to use the Xenex robot. “We already have a strong infection prevention program. The Xenex technology allows us to be even more proactive in protecting the health of our patients and staff,” said Coretha Weaver, Erlanger infection prevention coordinator. “This technology is used in high risk areas, including operating rooms and patient rooms, in conjunction with the extensive cleaning services already provided by our environmental services team.”
“Our team members are very excited to be using this kind of advanced technology in their daily work,” said Steve Wheeler with Erlanger’s Environmental Services. “The environmental services team feels very empowered because they can clearly see that they’re saving lives by preventing infections.”
“Patient safety is always our number one priority,” said Kevin M. Spiegel, FACHE, Erlanger President and CEO. “Erlanger has long been recognized as the region’s leader in medical technology and highly specialized care, so it’s only fitting that we should employ the same level of technological innovation when it comes to preventing infections. One hospital-acquired infection is one too many, so we are excited to begin using the Xenex system to help us achieve our goal of zero infections.”